July 21, 2012
Posted by: Katherine Munchmeyer, Management Counselor
Aerial view of Niihau Island in Hawaii, looking southwestward from the north. Taken by Christopher P. Becker (polihale.com) on 25 Sep 2007 from a helicopter.
Hawai’i, the Aloha State. Eight magic islands where the sun will shine: The Big Island of Hawai’i, Maui, Moloka’i, Lana’i, Kaho’olawe, O’ahu, Kaua’i, and Ni’ihau. The names themselves evoke the exotic nature of this former island kingdom, now the 50th state in the Union.
Growing up in Hawai’i, I had no idea I was growing up in paradise. As a kid I took for granted the tropical climate, the cooling trade winds, the white sandy beaches and clear blue waters. As an adult, just writing about my home state makes me want to hop on a plane and head for the islands. In fact I have done it – gotten on a plane on the east coast of the Mainland (as Islanders refer to the contiguous 48 states) in the morning, and jumped in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean in the afternoon. That was “da kine” awesome day, man.
In fact, what brings tourists back time and again to the islands is precisely their beauty and gentleness. Tourism is the single most important industry on the islands, overtaking agricultural cornerstones of sugar and pineapple. Over 7 million come to visit this state whose own population is just under 1.5 million. And who can blame them? A cold day in Hawai’i rarely gets below 15C, while hot summer days usually stay below 30C. And there is so much to see and do! Of course, most people think of Hawai’i and its beaches. The most famous is
View of Waikiki Beach area hotels.
Waikiki, which is framed by the classic outline of Diamond Head crater. But travel around the island and you’ll find the unique Hanauma Bay, with its beautiful coral reef in the middle of another collapsed volcanic crater. Put on your mask and snorkel and you can view the many colorful tropical fishes normally found behind the glass of exotic aquariums. The beach at Kailua is a great place for windsurfing, or a wedding at sunset. Up on the North Shore you can watch the surfers at Waiamea Bay – just be careful not to let those waves wash you away! The best part about Hawai’i’s beaches is that they are all public. Regardless of how exclusive the hotel or wealthy the estate, the property rights end where the sand begins.
The most popular destination is still the main island of O’ahu, where the capital Honolulu is located. Honolulu is incidentally where Barack Obama was born, and where he graduated from Punahou School, my alma mater. Maui is the second-most popular island. The town of Lahaina still retains the flavor of its old whaling days. You can climb Mount Hale’akala and witness the sunrise as did Mark Twain. But my favorite is still the Big Island of Hawai’i. It is here you can feel the power of Pele, the goddess of fire. According to legend, Pele was exiled from her home in Tahiti by her father because she was always fighting with her sister, the Goddess of the Sea. Pele created each of the Hawaiian islands, but her sister always put the fire out, until a final epic battle in which Pele died and was transformed into a goddess herself. She now resides in the volcano Kilauea, which has been erupting along a rift zone continuously since 1983. Hawaiian volcanoes are normally relatively gentle. It is possible to visit the crater of Kilauea, and to walk over the recent lava paths to witness new land being formed as the new lava flows slowly into the sea. But be careful how you treat Pele – legend also has it that if you take a piece of lava or otherwise anger the goddess she will bring you nothing but trouble!
July 20, 2012
Posted by usembassykyiv under 50 States in 50 Days
| Tags: Alaska
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Posted by: Michael Burnham, Consular Intern
Alaska is a state that can only be described in superlatives. It is by far the largest state (over twice the size of Texas), is the northernmost and coldest state, hosts half the world’s glaciers, and boasts the most wildlife, wilderness, lakes (3 million), coastline (more than every other state combined), and volcanoes (over 100), than anywhere in the United States. The centerpiece of Alaska’s geography is Mt. McKinley—also known as Denali. While Mt. Everest has more notoriety for being the world’s highest mountain, Denali is actually the world’s biggest mountain when measured from base to peak. Located in central Alaska, the massive peak can be seen from hundreds of miles away in virtually every region of the state.
Denali National Park
If you’re looking for nightlife and parties, Alaska isn’t your state. Culturally it’s far removed from much of the United States. Most residents would rather spend their night under the northern lights than the disco lights and are more comfortable with a shotgun than a shopping bag. Yet, with the lowest population density in the United States, frequent encounters with the world’s biggest moose, world class fishing and camping, and the occasional bear wandering onto your back porch, it is the ultimate land of outdoor adventure.
Alaska, Iditarod Dog Sled Team
Alaska is not a state that boasts many celebrities. In fact the only Alaskan that many people are familiar with may be politician Sarah Palin. Alaska is a state of ordinary people who are content with their happy lives. The people there welcome everyone with a very sincere brand of friendliness and openness. It’s a great place to visit, but an even better place to live. No matter how short your stay though, you’re guaranteed to leave with a few new friends.
The purchase of Alaska from Russia has been the source of some controversy in former Soviet Republics. Many believe the 1867 transaction was not actually a sale, but a 99 year lease and the United States failed to return the territory during the Cold War. In reality, however, this is an urban legend. Original documents of the transaction confirm that it was a sale, and make no mention of a lease or time at which the territory was to be returned.
While many associate Alaska with an uninhabited frozen wasteland, in reality it is one of the world’s greatest natural treasures. Summer is the best time to visit; it is pleasantly warm, bursting with life, and enveloped in seemingly endless daylight. For anyone who enjoys the natural environment, Alaska is a must have item on the travel bucket list.
July 19, 2012
Posted by: MAJ Sven Olson, Bilateral Affairs Officer
Cowboys Up The Creek (Sedona AZ)
Photo by Sven Olson
It is such an honor to have the opportunity to introduce the 48th State, Arizona, to our readers of “50 States in 50 Days”! I often tell friends around the world that Arizona is a wonderful place to go home to, and I truly mean it from the depth of my prickly pear soul. In all my explorations of the world, Arizona stands apart as one of the most magical. It never stops giving me breathtaking moments and unforgettable adventures. When I close my eyes I immediately think of cowboys and Indians, and in Arizona, those dreams are our reality! The brilliant sunsets and sharp desolation of the desert and cactus are wonders of the world that each of us should have the privilege to see some day. Whether in a city like Tucson, or in a long deserted ghost town, the mysteries are boundless in sights, sounds and smells. One of the most unforgettable scents on earth is the wet desert mesquite after a hard summer rain. It’s a freshness so unusual that no one can describe it better, than just experiencing it for yourself.
Monument of Time (Monument Valley, AZ)
Photo by Sven Olson
There are 21 unique and amazing tribes of Native American Indians in Arizona. Their lands are now protected and their cultures preserved by Pow Wow’s and patriarchs of ancient family bloodlines. (more…)
July 18, 2012
Posted by usembassykyiv under 50 States in 50 Days
, Native Americans
, Travel and Tourism
| Tags: Albuquerque
, atomic bomb
, Balloon Fiesta
, commercial spaceport
, Los Alamos National Laboratory
, Manhattan Project
, New Mexico
, Santa Fe
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Posted by: Eric Salzman, Economic Officer
The state bearing the motto “Land of Enchantment” presents a fascinating mixture of the ancient and the futuristic within its borders.
Taos Pueblo residential complex, probably built between 1000 and 1450 A.D. (Photo by Luca Galuzzi)
Out of the Past
Native cultures flourished in New Mexico beginning around 1,200 BC, giving rise to the Anasazi civilization, which built fortified cities and cliff dwellings for defense and roads for commerce. “Anasazi” is a Navajo term to refer to the “Ancient Ones” who once lived in what later became the Navajo territory (encompassing large parts of what is now New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado). The Anasazi were forced to abandon their stone cities, perhaps due to a 300-year drought, but the ruins have become National Monuments and Cultural Parks at Bandelier and Chaco Canyon, and their descendants may still live on in the Pueblo, Hopi, Zuni and other tribes that call New Mexico home. Every August, New Mexico hosts the Gathering of Nations Powwow, which features exhibitions and competitions in dance, music, and traditional crafts of native peoples from throughout North and South America.
White Sands National Monument
Into the Future
In 1942, the Los Alamos National Laboratory was founded in New Mexico as part of the Manhattan Project, with the goal of developing the atomic bomb. Today, twenty years after the end of the Cold War, the Laboratory continues to conduct cutting edge research in all branches of science. (more…)
July 17, 2012
Posted by: Jerrold Frank, Regional English Language Officer
Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain! When many people think of the state of Oklahoma, this popular verse by Rodgers and Hammerstein, from the score of the musical Oklahoma, immediately springs to mind. Perhaps what many people don’t know is that Oklahoma derives its name from the Native American Choctow language, okla and humma, meaning “red people.” However these days people who live in Oklahoma are often called Oklahomans. Sometimes Oklahomans are referred to as Sooners. This is because when lands in the region opened to settlers in 1889, some tried to stake their claims before they were supposed to. These people became known as Sooners, as they arrived a little too soon. After that, the name stuck and Oklahoma earned the nickname The Sooner State.
The state’s high plains stretch behind a greeting sign in the Oklahoma Panhandle.
Oklahoma is located in the South Central region of the United States. Of the 50 United States, Oklahoma ranks number 20 in terms of size and number 28 in terms of population. The landscape in Oklahoma is very diverse, ranging from large eastern forests to sweeping prairies and small mountain ranges in the west. Also, much of Oklahoma is located in an area of the United States known as Tornado Alley, where warm and cold air masses frequently collide to produce severe weather. Besides being a major producer of agriculture, natural gas and oil, Oklahoma also has one of the fastest growing economies in America.
A river carves a canyon in the Wichita Mountains.
Sports play a very important role in the lives of Oklahomans. The state’s only professional sports franchise, the National Basketball Association’s Oklahoma Thunder, made it all the way to the NBA finals this year. Sadly, despite a gritty effort, they were defeated by the Miami Heat. Perhaps closer to the hearts of Oklahomans are their college football teams. The Oklahoma State University Cowboys and the University of Oklahoma Sooners regularly have more than 50,000 fans attending their games. It can be argued that the biggest sporting event in the state occurs when the two universities meet to play each year. The enthusiasm of the fans at these events has led to these contests being dubbed as the Bedlam Series.
The Sooner Schooner on the field during a football game.
Just because Oklahomans are crazy about their sports teams does not mean that the state is devoid of culture. The city of Bartlesville hosts an annual Oklahoma Mozart Festival, one of the largest classical musical festivals in the South, and Oklahoma City’s Festival of the Arts is one of the top in all of the United States. In addition, the state has produced five world famous Native American ballerinas and the city of Tulsa boasts one of the best ballet companies in America. Not to mention, if you want to see the musical Oklahoma in person, you can head to Discoveryland, an outdoor amphitheater and official headquarters of the musical in Sand Springs.
Oklahoma! Original Broadway Cast Album (1943)
Whether you love great natural diversity, sports, or the arts, if you’re not from Oklahoma, the SOONER you get there the SOONER you will be able to enjoy all this great state has to offer.
July 16, 2012
Posted by: Luke Schtele, Deputy Press Attaché
Salt Lake City, Utah, USA in January 2009, photo by Skyguy414
Utah is my home. I was born in the high desert valleys where the Rocky Mountains and Colorado Plateau come together and form awesome rock formations and pristine alpine lakes. I spent most of my childhood in the suburbs of Salt Lake City. The jagged mountains of the Wasatch Range always watched over us, as if they were giants protecting those below. I didn’t realize how much I relied on the mountains for comfort and orientation until I first traveled to the Great Plains of the United States and realized I did not have the mountains to determine which way was up or down, north or south. I still seek mountains or hills in every country I visit or live in to feel at “home.”
Park City Skiing
Utah natives are not the only ones who enjoy the mountains of Utah. Four million visitors come every year to ski in what is called “The Greatest Snow on Earth.” Utah’s winter wonderland includes 14 ski resorts where skiers, snowboarders, and those who come just for the après-ski, can try arguably the best powder skiing in the world. Utah’s mountains and snow are no longer a secret outside of North America since hosting the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics. The world descended on Salt Lake, including 68 Ukrainian athletes that competed in 11 sports. The quaint former mining village turned ski town, Park City, is the heart of Utah’s ski country. In Park City you will find some of the best ski runs by day and bars and restaurants at night. Park City also plays host to the most important film festival in the United States and one of the most prestigious in the world, Sundance. January at the Sundance Film Festival is the time to go to see and be seen and rub elbows with Hollywood stars on Park City’s Main Street.
Salt Lake City is Utah’s capital, largest city, and world headquarters of what is popularly known as the Mormon Church. Salt Lake is unique among large cities in the United States. It is surrounded by towering mountains on three sides of its valley and a large terminal salty lake to the north, the Great Salt Lake. The Great Salt Lake, in its saltiest point, has a salinity level of 27%. For comparison, the world’s oceans have a salinity level of 3.5%. Bathers come to float in the lake, but birds come in much larger droves. The wetlands of the Great Salt Lake are habitat for millions of migratory and shore birds. As a kid growing up near the lake, I remember riding my bicycle to its shore to look across the expanse of the dead inland sea and watch the pelicans, cormorants, grebes, and seagulls flying above or lounging on rocks. One of my favorite spots in all of the United States, and a place I must go to each time I travel home to Utah, is Antelope Island. The island is the largest in the Great Salt Lake and has been turned into a state park. One can hike or bike the island’s trails and see pronghorn antelope, American bison, bighorn sheep, and if you are lucky, a bobcat. There are also beautiful bays with unique white oolitic sand beaches. Oolitic sand is made from concentric rings of minerals from the lake that surrounded a tiny pellet of brine shrimp fecal matter to form the grain of sand. Access to the island is easy, just drive on over from the mainland via a 7 mile (11 km) causeway.
Sunset at Delicate Arch (Arches National Park, Utah), photo by Palacemusic
The wonders of Northern Utah are very different from the beauty of Southern Utah. Five U.S. National Parks are located in Utah’s red rock country. Arches National Park is home to the highest concentration of natural stone arches in the world. Impressive towering red, pink, and cream stone monoliths loom over the Virgin River in Zion National Park. Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef National Parks feature narrow slot canyons, gigantic rock domes, and whimsical sandstone hoodoos respectively.
One breath of fresh mountain air or glimpse across the red sandstone plateaus and you will know why Utah chose the slogan, “Life Elevated.”
July 15, 2012
Posted by: Jerrold Frank, Regional English Language Officer
Grand Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, USA, photo by Stefan Pauli
With its sweeping plains, high deserts and majestic mountains, the state of Wyoming typifies the Great American West. As the ninth largest in terms of land mass but the least populated state in the United States, those seeking solitude in vast wide-open faces can find it here. The state offers countless outdoor recreational and sightseeing opportunities and is home to the first national park in the United States, Yellowstone National Park. Within more than 2 million acres comprising Yellowstone National Park, visitors can view up close some of the most unique geothermal features in the world – including perhaps the most famous geyser in the world, Old Faithful. So interesting are the features of this park that the first published reports of the region in 1807 describing the Yellowstone area were thought to be fictional. Nobody could believe the other-worldly descriptions of the geography and geology found there. In addition to Yellowstone National Park, the state also boasts Grand Teton National Park, Devils Tower National Park and Fossil Butte National Park. Each of these parks is special in that they house one-of-a-kind natural landscapes that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetimes.
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Wyoming is a state of many firsts. Aside from having the first national park in the United States, Wyoming was also the first state to grant women the right to vote and to serve on juries. In addition, the country’s first female governor was elected in Wyoming back in 1924. This has lead the state to become known as the Equality State.
With so few people living in such a large land mass, naturally there is room for an abundance of wildlife in Wyoming. Some of the more famous non-human inhabitants of Wyoming include grizzly and black bears, gray wolves, elk, pronghorn deer, antelope, moose, mountain lions, eagles, and yes, American bison. Also, keep on the lookout for rattlesnakes! If you’re out hiking in the Wyoming wilderness, best to wear some ankle high hiking boots. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also find game such as elk or bison on the menu of some local restaurants.
In terms of crime and personal safety, Wyoming has one of the lowest crime rates in the country. The biggest danger in Wyoming is the sheer size and emptiness of the place. Visitors must be sure to plan ahead when trekking into the great open spaces of Wyoming. Winters can be especially fierce so you don’t want to get caught in a blizzard in the middle of nowhere. That being said, the middle of nowhere offers the outdoor-minded opportunities to fish, hunt, ski, snowmobile and camp. Just be sure you know what you’re doing.
If you’ve ever watched a cowboy movie and yearned to explore the open spaces of the Great American West then Wyoming is for you. Who knows, once you visit you may not want to leave.
July 14, 2012
Posted by: Laura Smiley, Department of Energy
I have lived abroad for a while, so I’m used to being asked where I’m from in the United States. When I say, “My family is from Idaho,” usually I get a response that includes mention of the potato for which Idaho is famous! But Idaho is so much more to me than potatoes. Idaho is the native land of my father and of my grandparents, and I still have many relatives who live there. With mountains and prairies and rivers and deserts, I think it’s the most beautiful state in the union. Some day, I want to return and settle down there.
Redfish Lake in central Idaho
Idaho is considered to be one of the Rocky Mountain states, and it has a wide range of geological features. My very favorite road trip is to drive from Pocatello, in the south-eastern part of the state, to Boise, in the western part of the state, and then up to Coeur d’Alene, in the “pan handle” of the state.
Sunset in Coeur d’Alene
If you follow my route, you’ll pass through sage brush and lava rock-covered mountainous foothills into a desert that looks as dead and cratered as the surface of the moon. Soon after that, you will find yourself winding your way up through the lush panhandle. During that road trip, you will have passed three of Idaho’s Native American reservations. You will have seen the deepest gorge in the United States, as well as some of the highest, snow-capped mountains. You will have had the choice to go whitewater rafting, or take it easy soaking in one of the many famous lava-heated hot springs. Or maybe you will have chosen to go skiing in one of the United States’ most famous resorts, Sun Valley. If you’re like my father, you will have taken advantage of the salmon and trout fishing, or deer and elk hunting opportunities (Idaho recently filled 3 of the top 5 spots in Outdoor Life Magazine’s best towns for sportsmen). However, if you want big crowded cities and sprawling suburbs, Idaho is not for you! Its wild beauty is accentuated by the fact that it is one of the least populous states in the country.
Sun Valley Idaho Bald Mountain
By the way, Idahoans are smart! Idaho is home to one of my agency’s (Department of Energy’s) leading research facilities, the Idaho National Laboratory. Idaho National Lab is an active participant in several joint U.S.-Ukraine nuclear research projects, and was the technical lead for the U.S. government in planning the return of highly enriched uranium from Ukraine to Russia this past March – a project that was highlighted at the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit by our two presidents.
July 13, 2012
Posted by usembassykyiv under 50 States in 50 Days
| Tags: Washington
Posted by: Llywelyn Graeme, Ambassador’s OMS
Although other territories became states after Washington, we were the limit of the contiguous United States. No one goes through Washington and decides to stop there, we are the end of the continent, the north western limit of the United States. The people who settle there always mean to go there. We are a land of individualists and pioneers.
Stuart Island, San Juan Islands, Washington
The state is divided down the middle by the Cascade Range, part of the Pacific “Ring of Fire.” Mt. St. Helens, Baker and Rainier are all semi-active volcanoes. It is not impossible to stand on a rural road and see a “Tsunami evacuation route” sign pointing inland and a “Volcano evacuation route” sign pointing towards the coast. East of the mountains is dry, flat and brown. Most of the United States’ apples, potatoes, cherries and peas come from there. While nowhere near as fertile as Ukraine, the vast irrigation and power projects of the 1930s transformed the land from a high desert to a bountiful garden. That is also where the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is, one of the world’s oldest nuclear research sites. The moist air of the Pacific Ocean sweeps across the swamps and coastal plains to run into the Cascades. There it dumps large amounts of rain. It does not rain all the time in Western Washington, but it is gray and cloudy almost year round. In fact it rains over three meters a year in the Hoh Rainforest of the Olympic Peninsula, the wettest place in all of North America!
Mount St. Helens, Washington
Over the years Washington has given the U.S., and the world, many iconic companies. Boeing, the inventor of the first widely successful jet plane for commercial use, Weyerhaeuser, one of the world’s largest timber companies, Microsoft and Nintendo, Amazon and Starbucks. Together, Seattle and Tacoma are one of the busiest ports on the West Coast, surpassed only by L.A./Long Beach. As the closest port to Asia, we ship out logs, grain and cars, and receive goods from around the world. While settled predominantly by Scandinavians and Northern European families, Washington is also home to a large Latino population and every East Asian country has a sizeable Diaspora population in the coastal cities, from Korean to Thai to Chinese.
Neon coffee mug reflected in coffee shop window, Seattle, Washington
Washington has something for almost everyone. High Deserts, culturally vibrant cities, peaceful ocean beaches, dark verdant forests, towering glaciated mountains and deep blue lakes. Not a day goes by that I do not think of Washington, my home.
July 11, 2012
Posted by usembassykyiv under 50 States in 50 Days
, Native Americans
, Travel and Tourism
| Tags: Badlands
, Black Hills
, Crazy Horse
, Custer State Park
, Mount Rushmore
, South Dakota
Posted by: Samuel Gabel, Public Affairs Section Assistant
South Dakota is a land of natural beauty and diversity. The types of landscapes found here range from, rolling hills, oceans of waiving grass, and lakes that cover the eastern part of the state, to the alien beauty of the Badlands, to the majestic granite peaks and pine forests of the Black Hills. Here the Midwest meets the West. Here, one can find both fields filled with amber waves of grain, as well as cattle ranches and cowboys. This is the land where the proud and fierce Sioux tribes once roamed. It is also the setting for some of the most dramatic History of the Old West.
Photo by Dean Franklin
My Experience Here
South Dakota is my home state. Here I have passed many memorable childhood summers, boating, hunting, fishing, walking through the tall prairie grass, driving old tractors and setting off fireworks on Independence Day. I like the sense of security that people have here, the friendliness found in the various small towns, the wide-open landscapes and the way the sky seems bigger and more beautiful here.
Rolling hills and wide open sky near Pierre
People and Cultures
My family, and a fair sized portion of the population, are ethnically German. However, probably the most distinctive ethnic group is the Sioux Nation (also known as the Lakota or Dakota). It is from these people that the state gets its name. South Dakota’s native tribes make up a relatively high portion of the population (even greater than in Oklahoma). Traditionally, the Sioux were a nomadic warrior people. Today, most live in several reservations scattered across the state. The Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center, near Chamberlain offers an opportunity to learn about the history and traditions of the Sioux. There are also a number of powwows (tribal gatherings generally involving dancers in costume) all across the state. A number of them welcome visitors (provided said visitors are respectful).
July 10, 2012
Posted by: Elizabeth Horst, Deputy Economic Counselor
Ask an American if he or she has been to North Dakota, and the answer is most likely: No. For many U.S. residents, the mention of North Dakota conjures a bleak image on endless highways, endless fields, an endless winter, where temperatures rival Siberia, or the movie “Fargo” (which actually takes place in neighboring Minnesota.) That image doesn’t bother most North Dakotans, however, where they like to say that the cold winter temperatures keep out the weak and the troublemakers – “the riff raff.”
North Dakota National Guard sandbags for south Bismarck flooding. Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Haugen
When I was a kid, I loved visiting our family in Fargo, North Dakota. It seemed like the coolest place in the world – it was so flat in the Red River Valley, you never had to ride your bike up hill. The sweet corn from the local farm stands was straight from the field and tasted like summer. The winters were indeed cold, but that made for cross country skiing and sledding. Despite being very flat, Fargo’s only hills are on the banks of the Red River, which has also gained international fame for its epic flooding in 1997, 2009 and 2011.
Going back as an adult, there’s still a lot to enjoy about North Dakota. Cambridge University ranked North Dakota as “the friendliest state in the US” and another poll voted it the safest. It has a low cost of living, a high quality of life, good roads and education – with the highest graduation rates in the country. It’s just those winters you need to watch out for…
North Dakota also has a lot in common with Ukraine, particularly in agriculture. Some fun facts about agriculture from the North Dakota tourism Website:
North Dakota is a prime exporter of agricultural products, taking the trophy in production of several crops. North Dakota ranks first in the production of flaxseed, canola, durum wheat, all dry edible beans, all dry edible peas, spring wheat, honey, lentils, sunflowers, barley and oats. About 10 percent of North Dakota’s area, the band of rich soil 40 miles west of the Red River, is often called the “Breadbasket of the World.”
Sunflowers in Traill County, North Dakota
Livestock production is second only to wheat in North Dakota’s agricultural economy. It is most important in western North Dakota where the land is less suited for grain crops. The main livestock are beef, dairy cattle and hogs.
North Dakota farmers and ranchers annually produce enough:
• Wheat for 13.5 billion loaves of bread.
• Potatoes for 192 million servings of french fries.
• Durum for 6.3 billion servings of spaghetti.
• Corn to produce 418 million gallons of ethanol.
• Soybeans to make 251 billion crayons.
• Sunflowers to fill 2.2 billion bags of sunflower seeds.
• Beef for 113 million hamburgers.
• Pork for 57 million pork chops.
• Wool for 513,000 sweaters.
• Milk for 1 billion glasses.
July 9, 2012
Posted by: Dawn Carmin, USAID Democracy and Governance Officer
Colorado has it all — the beautiful Rocky Mountains, Great Plains, and bustling city centers all along Interstate 25 that crosses Colorado from the north to the south. The only thing nature-lovers may miss is a sandy beach and ocean; however, the 300 lakes in the state make up for the missing coastline. Over one third of Colorado’s 100,000 square miles is dedicated state parks and open spaces. Ukraine is more than double the size of Colorado — that means that a little more than two Colorados could fit in the country of Ukraine!
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Many Coloradans enjoy the outdoors and with an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, people enjoy outdoor activities year round. In the summer, you’ll often see overloaded cars and motor homes headed to the mountains for camping, hiking, picnics, cycling, rock climbing, rafting and canoeing, and all sorts of other summer activities. In the winter, many Coloradans head up to the mountains for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and sledding. Aspen, Colorado, has hosted the Winter X-games since 2002. The games attract more than 200 of the world’s best and most extreme athletes in winter sports. They compete in skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling. Aspen is also home to numerous winter Olympic training sites.
Skiing in Aspen, Colorado
Colorado has a long history and has been home to many different groups of people over the years. Evidence of the first inhabitants of Colorado date back as early as 1300 BC, and the Ute Indians are the oldest continuous residents of Colorado. They have lived in the area since 1500 AD. The name Colorado is Spanish in origin and it means “colored red.” Colorado became the 38th state in the union in 1876. Denver, the capital of Colorado, was settled in 1858 as miners came to the area looking for gold. Denver became the state capital of Colorado when it entered the Union, but was permanently named the capital after a statewide vote in 1881. In the mid to late 19th century, Denver was a part of the Wild West and attracted a lot of miners and nefarious characters looking for riches and a good time. Colorado still has a reputation of cattle and cowboys — it still hosts the world’s largest rodeo, the National Western Stock Show — but it also boasts urban fun with large cities that are home to universities, restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
There are lots of Ukrainian diaspora living in Colorado and it’s easy to find groups there that share the Ukrainian language and culture.
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
July 8, 2012
Posted by: Neil Gipson, Consular Officer
Nebraska is famous for its fertile agricultural land, where – like large parts of Ukraine – we grow an abundance of corn, wheat and other crops. But Nebraska’s land also hides a secret side, buried beneath the soil for millions of years. For hidden under our farmlands are a treasure trove of fossils that tell a story of earth’s history.
Niobrara River, Nebraska
One of the richest fossil finds in Nebraska is the Ashfall Fossil Beds. There, you can lean in and watch in person while paleontologists unearth the skeletons of rhinoceroses, three-toed horses and other animals that died twelve million years ago when a giant volcano covered the land in ash.
Paleontologists at Ashfall Fossil Beds
Further west at the Agate Fossil Beds, you can see the “Miocene monsters” that replaced the dinosaurs after they had gone extinct. There is the terrible Dinohyus, a cross between a bison and a pig; the Menoceras, a rhinoceros with two horns; and the Stenomylus, a tiny camel less than 60cm tall!
Agate Fossil Beds
But the crown jewel of Nebraska’s fossil collection is the university museum found at Morrill Hall in the capital city of Lincoln. The museum is affectionately known as “Elephant Hall” because there you can see “Archie,” the largest elephant skeleton in the world. Archie is a mammoth who is more than 4 meters tall and nearly 30,000 years old, and he’s just one of hundreds of mammoth and mastodon skeletons that paleontologists have found across Nebraska. In fact, the museum collection includes more than 1.5 million fossil specimens!
A skeleton of Daeodon (Dinohyus)
Next time you visit the United States, take time to travel through Nebraska. You’ll see our beautiful countryside, meet our friendly people, and even get a glimpse of the secret history of the world that’s buried right beneath your feet.
July 7, 2012
Posted by: Luke Schtele, Deputy Press Attaché
The iconic Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign
When the world thinks of Nevada, they usually think of Las Vegas! Not only is Las Vegas Nevada’s largest city, the metropolitan area has almost 2 million people, but it is also the fourth most visited city in the United States, with over 39 million visitors per year! Las Vegas does not bill itself as the “Entertainment Capital of the World” for no reason. The city’s tolerance for all kinds of entertainment earned it the nickname, Sin City. The city proudly owns this moniker, and in fact, adopted as the official travel and tourism slogan, “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas.” Walking into a casino in Sin City you are overwhelmed by the sounds of the slot machines, the bright lights of the casino floor, the shuffling of cards, and the wild celebrations or hushed breaths of winners and the hopeful. This is just part of the Las Vegas casino experience. Gone are the days when Vegas was just gambling. Today’s casinos are destinations in and of themselves. The famous Strip is a 4-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard lined with fifteen of the 25 largest hotels in the world! You can never get too big or over the top in Las Vegas. Some of the world’s most iconic cities, stories, and moments in history have been reinvented and recreated along the Strip. You can stroll through Paris, New York-New York, Monte Carlo, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Excalibur, or The Venetian. The Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino has its own beach and shark reef where visitors can go dive with 30 different kinds of the exotic creatures! From the top of the Luxor, a pyramid-shaped Egyptian-themed resort, shines the brightest light in the world up into the sky above. Visitors driving in from miles away can see the light as they enter the Las Vegas Valley.
The southern portion of the Las Vegas Strip by night with Project CityCenter construction on the bottom right
(Note the Eiffel Tower replica on near left)
Las Vegas is famed for its concerts, shows, and sporting events. Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Liberace, Sammy Davis Jr., Wayne Newton, Elton John, Cher, Bette Midler, Celine Dion, all graced the stage in Vegas at one time. Today Las Vegas is also known for Cirque du Soleil and Broadway shows. Some of the best car racing, boxing, and competitive poker can be found in Sin City. Volodymyr and Vitaliy Klitschko have both fought and won in the famous rings of Las Vegas.
Nevada is much more than the bright lights, round-the-clock entertainment, and fun of Las Vegas. My favorite things about Nevada, and the West in general, are the wide-open spaces and outdoor recreation possibilities. Just 45 minutes south of Las Vegas is Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. This modern-engineering marvel was built during the Great Depression on the Colorado River and now offers boating and other water sports in the desert rock canyon. Great Basin National Parkhas some of the best hiking and most interesting natural history in Nevada. Five thousand year old bristlecone pine trees, older than any other single living organism, grow in contorted and twisted patterns in inhospitable rocky terrain in the shadow of the park’s 13,065 foot (3980m) Wheeler Peak.
Hoover Dam 2011 panoramic view from the Arizona side showing the penstock towers, the Nevada-side spillway entrance and the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, also known as the Hoover Dam Bypass
Across the state, on the border with California, is Lake Tahoe, North America’s largest alpine lake, the second deepest lake in the United States, and the 26th largest fresh water lake in the world. World-class ski resortssurround the lake and after a long day on the slopes, visitors can relax in Reno, “The Biggest Little City in the World.”
Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe
Pack your bags and come to Nevada for the neon lights of Las Vegas and Reno or the silence of the Wild West’s ghost towns.
Downtown Reno, including the city’s famous arch over Virginia Street at night.
July 6, 2012
Posted by usembassykyiv under 50 States in 50 Days
| Tags: West Virginia
Posted by: Samuel Gabel, Public Affairs Section Assistant
West Virginia Scenic Drive
The only state located entirely within the Appalachian Mountains, West Virginia is known for mountain views, winding mountain roads, coal mining, and top-notch outdoor recreation. Lovers of the outdoors can find great places for rock climbing, white water rafting, hiking, driving, or riding.
Generations of great climbers have practiced their craft on majestic Seneca Rocks which stretches like a giant rock fin above the rough countryside. The rocks offer a variety of routes of varying difficulty. The rock face was once used as a training ground for the U.S. Army mountain troops.
West Virginia offers some impressive white water rafting opportunities in the shape of the Gauley and New Rivers. Considered one of the premiere runs in the world, the Gauley River snakes through miles of gorges and valleys roaring over class five (and above) rapids. The New River (actually thought by geologists to be among the oldest rivers in the world) has rapids ranging from class three to five. Along the river, one can see both natural beauty and historical relics of West Virginia’s mining and railroad history.
West Virginia BASE Jumpers
The New River Gorge Bridge attracts BASE Jumpers the world over, who gather every third Saturday in October to risk life and limb in death defying leaps from the bridge. After their feet leave the bridge, jumpers have only a few seconds to pull their parachute cords and avert disaster. Many prefer to watch rather than jump. The local geography offers a number of vantage points for spectators. For those who prefer to ascend cliffs rather than jump off them, New River Gorge also rates with Seneca Rocks as one of the eastern United States’ premiere locations for rock climbing.
Thankfully, one doesn’t necessarily have to be the extreme sports type to enjoy West Virginia. The state boasts numerous scenic hiking/walking trails, which are a good deal less hair-raising than BASE jumping or class five rapids. Another relaxing pursuit popular among many West Virginians is fishing. There are a variety of fish to be caught including bass and bluegill. In fact, it was in streams of West Virginia that my great-grandfather became a skilled fly fisherman.
There are ways to enjoy the state’s natural beauty even from the comfort of one’s vehicle. The winding and scenic roads famously referenced by musician John Denver attract numerous motorcycle enthusiasts from far and wide. One particularly beautiful drive for motorcyclists and auto drivers alike is Highland Scenic Highway. The route winds through 43 miles of unspoiled wilderness and beautiful vistas.
If one has a preference for more old fashioned means of transportation there are a number of scenic railroad tours to be found. Some of these, such as Cass Scenic Railroad, use century-old steam engines. The Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad offers opportunities to catch a glimpse of the United States’ national symbol, the bald eagle, in its natural habitat.
Whether you want a place to find heart racing thrills, or a place to unwind in the midst of natural beauty and friendly locals, West Virginia is that place.
July 5, 2012
Posted by usembassykyiv under 50 States in 50 Days
| Tags: Kansas
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“Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!”
- Dorothy, in the film The Wizard of Oz
Posted by: Elizabeth Horst, Deputy Economic Counselor
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Kansas
For residents of Kansas, the association with the 1939 classic film can get to be a burdensome cliché. Young farm girl Dorothy Gale gets swooped up by a tornado that carries her and her house to a colorful magical land that is meant to be the opposite of drab Kansas. But having studied at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, I can vouch that Kansas is anything but boring. Granted, it might not be populated with Munchkins and flying monkeys like the Land of Oz, but it’s a great place to live and study.
Seal of the University of Kansas
I’m not a native Kansan– but I am a “Jayhawk” to my core, and love promoting the university known as “KU.” (Not UK – that’s the University of Kentucky!) The University of Kansas mascot is the Jayhawk, named for a mythical bird — half blue jay, half sparrow hawk. Jayhawk was also the name for troublemakers and rabble-rousers in the 1850s, when Kansas was a territory struggling to decide if it would allow slavery to be legal. Those fighting to make Kansas a Free State became known as Jayhawks, and the name stuck when Kansas started one of the first collegiate cheers – “Rock Chalk Jayhawk KU!” Google it – it was a famous rallying cry 100 years ago! And no, it doesn’t really make sense. No one knows why students started to shout, “Rock Chalk!” But it stuck.
KU is a typical big American “state” university — which means it gets almost all its funding from the government of the state of Kansas, as opposed to private funding. With 30,000 undergrad and graduate students, and 2,500 faculty members, it offers a variety of degrees, ranging from journalism to business to medicine to architecture to classic liberal arts like history, literature, and languages. Its city management and urban planning program is considered one of the best in the nation. However, if you want an engineering or agricultural degree, you have to head west to Kansas State University, the rival institution 100 miles away in Manhattan, Kansas.
Chi Omega Fountain, the University of Kansas
Set on a hill visible for miles, Lawrence is a classic “college town,” meaning a community with lots of students and professors, where the main economic activity focuses on the university. Like many other “college towns,” Lawrence has lots of cafes, bars, bookstores, lots of bands and live music, interesting films and theaters. Some restaurants have been hosting students for generations, including “Joe’s Donuts,” which serves up hot glazed donuts from 9 pm to 1 am every night (just when students should be studying.)
Potter Lake, the University of Kansas
Sports has always been an important part of KU’s history, but it’s currently most famous for the men’s basketball team – a big deal during the tournament known as “March Madness.” The team has won five national titles, including three national (NCAA) tournament championships, most recently in 2008. The basketball program is currently the second winning-est program in college basketball history (after the University of Kentucky) with an overall record of 2,038–799 through the 2010–11 season. James Naismith, inventor of basketball, was a coach at Kansas (and rumored to be the only coach with a losing record!) In the interest of truth in journalism, many long-time Jayhawks fans will also acknowledge that the men’s basketball team also has a history of getting into the NCAA tournament, and losing in the first or second round, thus producing the cheer, “Rock CHOKE Jayhawk, KU.”
Fraser Hall, the University of Kansas
When foreign students look at studying in the United States, they often want to go to the famous and glamorous places, like California, New York, or Chicago. But I’ve told friends you can’t go wrong going to a state university — you’ll get a great education, and the opportunity to experience very typical American life. In the middle of Kansas, in the middle of the United States, KU is a great place to spend a few years. Rock Chalk!
July 4, 2012
Posted by Natalya Smith, Consular Officer
View of the Washington Monument from Kennedy Center rooftop
My name is Natalya Smith, and my favorite city in the world is Washington, D.C. It is commonly referred to as the District, short for the District of Columbia. DC is not a state, but rather an administrative area located on the land donated by the state of Maryland along the Potomac River. It’s the capital of the United States, and is famous for its monuments, museums, the White House, the Capitol Building, and its universities and historic sites.
My absolute favorite thing to do in Washington is to visit the Kennedy Center (the National Center for the Performing Arts) after work, getting a bite to eat at the rooftop cafe, and enjoying the view of the city, the Potomac river, and the planes coming in for landing at the Reagan National Airport. And then, I can enjoy an evening full of opera, ballet, or classical music performed by some of the best musicians and entertainers in the world. If residents or tourists cannot afford full price tickets, every evening there are also free shows at the Millennium Stage welcoming everyone to enjoy and appreciate the art of singing, dancing, and music.
The National Mall is a cluster of monuments, museums, and historic sites in the heart of Washington, D.C. On the one end of the Mall is the Capitol Building which houses the legislative branch of our government. It is open for visitors and provides a thrilling opportunity to watch members of Congress debate and vote on what may become U.S. law.
Lincoln Memorial and the Replecting Pool
On the other side of the Mall are the Lincoln Memorial and its reflecting pool — an impressive tribute to the President who lead the nation at the turbulent time of the Civil War. But when I think of the Lincoln Memorial, I immediately envision Dr. Martin Luther King during the civil rights movement, addressing thousands of Americans against the background of the Lincoln Memorial with his famous “I Have a Dream” speech and painting the future of a more just, equal, and tolerant nation. (more…)
July 3, 2012
Posted by: Elizabeth Wager, USAID Officer
Portland, Photo by Amateria1121
The state of Oregon is a picturesque area of the West Coast nestled between the states of Washington and California. Admitted into the United States in 1859, Oregon was first known as the Oregon Territory and was well traveled by two Virginians, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in their Corps of Discovery Expedition from 1804-1806. Many historic sites throughout the country commemorate the Lewis & Clark Trail, which stretches over 4,600 miles, crossing four time zones, and highlighting some of the most beautiful and remote areas of America before ending at the Pacific Ocean in Oregon.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Present day Oregon offers a little bit of everything! Urban living with a wide array of restaurants, brew pubs, and wine bars is easily available within the Portland city center. Portland is among the nation’s most easy-to-navigate cities with public transit or by foot—or even by bicycle! Hiking and camping enthusiasts will find plenty to do in the Hood River Valley (a one to two hour drive from Portland), at the Oregon Coast (a one hour drive from Portland) or at any of the 194 state parks scattered throughout Oregon. Theater enthusiasts can enjoy the internationally known Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Southern Oregon, located in the city of Ashland, throughout the spring and summer seasons.
July 2, 2012
Posted by: Eric Schultz, Deputy Chief of Mission and Elizabeth Horst, Deputy Economic Counselor
Picture of the St. Louis River rapids in w:Jay Cooke State Park.
The unofficial state motto, “Minnesota Nice,” has been satirized in movies such as Fargo and made fun of during the recent Republican primary campaigns when former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (T-Paw) dropped out of the race prematurely – because he was too nice.
But we really are nice! My Polish wife was shocked the first time she visited Minnesota that everyone we saw said hello to us. She asked if I knew all these people. Nope – they’re just friendly Minnesotans.
70 percent of Minnesotans are of German or Scandinavian ancestry so we come by this politeness honestly.
Minnesota entered the Union in 1858. Just after archrival Wisconsin (home state of Ambassador Tefft) but before other neighbors whom we look down on as country bumpkins: Iowa and the Dakotas. After all, Minneapolis-St. Paul is the 15th largest media market in the United States – we’re major league! Really! We even call Minneapolis (our largest city, with about 500,000 people) – the mini-apple (after New York – the big apple – with better than 10 million residents.)
Minneapolis skyline as seen from the roof of 711 West Lake Street.
The names of our sports teams give a few clues to the state:
Our baseball team, the Twins, winners of two World Series (1989 and 1991), are named after the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Our football team (American football), the Vikings, losers of four Super Bowls (thank you Buffalo Bills for losing just as many, and for losing four in a row, so no one remembers the Vikings losses – except Green Bay Packers’ fans) are named for the state’s Scandinavian heritage (and it sounds better than, say, the Minnesota Teutons).
The Minnesota Wild, the hockey team, is named after the wide stretches of wilderness in the north of the state. Hockey, by the way, is the state sport. Twelve out of the twenty members of the 1980 U.S. Men’s Olympic Ice Hockey Team that beat the Russians for gold in the “Miracle on Ice” hailed from Minnesota – as did the coach. The professional team has never won anything, though the previous team, the North Stars, named for the fact that we are the northern most state (save for Alaska) moved out of the state twenty years ago to Texas for some unknown reason, where they promptly won the Stanley Cup. Hockey is the state sport, of course, because it’s really really cold in Minnesota during the winter.
Xcel Energy Center arena in Saint Paul, Minnesota during a 2007-08 NHL season game between the Minnesota Wild and the New York Rangers
Famously cold. Every car commercial ever done where someone successfully starts their car in frigid weather thanks to their anti-freeze (or battery, or whatever) seems to have been filmed in Minnesota.
Of course, we are also famous for having lots of lakes. The real state motto is the “Land of Ten Thousand Lakes,” which sounds better than the “Land of 11,842 Lakes” (how many we really have). A lot of hockey gets played on those frozen lakes in the winter. And the lakes gave us our all-time best sports nickname – the basketball Lakers. Wait, I know what you are thinking, it’s the Los Angeles Lakers, but before they moved to L.A. they were the Minneapolis Lakers and won a bunch of NBA titles. But there aren’t any lakes in L.A. They should be the L.A. Starlets or Freeways or something. Not the Lakers. Our new team is called the Timberwolves. We have more of them than any other state besides Alaska, but the team’s not too good. Our basketball team should be the Lakers!
A couple of other things to know about Minnesota: the Mississippi River starts in the northern part of the state. There’s a place where you can actually step over it! Our state bird is the loon, which has a lovely call, but most of us think it should be the mosquito because they are ubiquitous in the summer time. Thelargest shopping mall in the U. S. – the Mall of America — is located in Minnesota. (The only one bigger is in Edmonton, Canada.) And we have a lot of large corporations headquartered in Minnesota: 3M, General Mills, Cargill, Best Buy, and Target to name a few. The state’s GDP at $282 billion in roughly twice that of Ukraine.
The source of the Mississippi River on the edge of Lake Itasca in Itasca State Park, Minnesota.
Finally, we’ve a few famous natives sons and daughters – more than Wisconsin anyway – including Prince, Bob Dylan, Jessica Lange, Josh Hartnett, Tom Friedman, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, and Lindsey Vonn to name just a few. Oh and two Minnesotans ran for President: Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale. They both finished second.
Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. [Entertainment: closeup view of vocalists Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.], 08/28/1963
Minnesota is a “nice” place to live, a “nice” place to visit, and a “nice” place to be from. Just not in the winter. Except for the last part. In the winter it’s a nice place to be from.
A wintry, February day in St. Paul
July 1, 2012
Posted by: James Wolfe, Press Attaché
California has been the home to many of the United States’ most famous pop, rock, and rap groups since the 1960s. The state first began to make its mark in country music in the 1950s, when Merle Haggard and Buck Owens popularized the “Bakersfield sound”, which developed as a more roots-based alternative to the slicker “Nashville sound.” It was in the 1960s, however, that California asserted itself worldwide as one of the hubs of rock and roll and popular music. Southern California “surf rock” bands like the Beach Boys became favorites of the Beatles, who in turn (along with the Rolling Stones, the Who and other “British Invasion” bands) inspired many young Californians to pick up guitars. San Francisco was home to hippies and “psychedelic rock,” typified by famous bands and musicians including: Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead (which first became known at Ken Kesey’s “acid tests” and started life as “The Warlocks” – a name they shared with Lou Reed’s band that played Andy Warhol’s New York City events. When they became aware that they shared the name, both changed, Reed’s band becoming the Velvet Underground). These bands combined folk and blues influences with rock and roll to create their signature sounds.
At the same time, Los Angeles was home to another strain of folk and country-based rock featuring bands like The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield (members of which later joined forces to create Crosby, Stills, and Nash – later joined by Neill Young). The more blues-based theatrical The Doors arose from the friendship of UCLA Film School students Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek. Not to be outdone for theatricality Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention combined a bizarre sense of humor with high caliber musicianship. From these roots arose other famous bands throughout the 1960s and 1970s, including Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Eagles, Jackson Browne and many others. By the 1980s and over the following decades, strains of other styles also became associated with California:
• hardcore punk (Black Flag, the Minutemen, Circle Jerks, etc),
• heavy metal (Quiet Riot, Mötley Crüe, Poison, Metallica, etc)
• rap and hip hop (Ice-T, Ice Cube, N.W.A., Dr. Dre, Tupac Shakur, etc.), and
• alternative and indie rock (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction, Beck, etc.)