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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Everyone - I will not be blogging through The Reporter Web site anymore, at least for now.

They decided to change the blogs, and honestly, I can't figure out how to even work it, so consider this my personal blog where you and I can continue to converse.

So if you want to keep reading Rustnevrsleeps you cannot link through The Reporter Website anymore.

Just tune in at

Bookmark that people.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Hmong funeral I attended Saturday for 16-year-old Fue Vang, one of three teenage friends killed in a car crash last week, put Christian death rites to shame in terms of openness, a sense of family and community and seeing death as a journey in which everyone becomes an active participant.

Believe me, I've been to enough family funerals to be a viable source.

And the way the Hmong community treated the press, as honored guests even in their time of sorrow, left me humbled, my head bowed, considering the circumstances.

Covering funerals is not high on my list of journalistic events I look forward to. Try explaining to someone we are going to show the world their deepest grief, suffering and sorrow.It's hard for them to see, and understandably, we are also sharing the celebration of a life.

Steeped in tradition, Fue's journey to the afterlife was attended by 300-some family and friends to make sure their loved one was never left alone for 3 days straight. Rituals included the playing of music, almost continually, on a bamboo instrument called a qeej, drumming, and tradition based on a belief in reincarnation.

A butchered chicken was placed near Fue's head. When his spirit visits his birthplace the chicken will help him dig up the placenta, which provides a connection between the spirit and physical worlds and allows him to be reborn.

Shiny decorations, burned intermittently, represented the money he will need in the next world. A crossbow will protect him from his enemies. A knife will be used to draw a line between this world and the next, so he can't come back. Food and drink are offered to the body to keep up his strength during the journey.

And that just touches briefly on the detail of spiritual preparation which requires, I was told by many of his family, "sleeping very little" during those three days,

"You are so welcome to be here and we thank you. We want everyone to know how much we are doing to help my son on his journey to the other world. Everyone is invited to come," said Fue's father.

To think I was hesitant, scared even, to attend the visitation after the treatment members of this press received from the non-Hmong community involved in Fue's life. Believe me, I never want to make anyone feel bad.

At a memorial service for the trio of young Hmong men sponsored by the Fond du Lac Ministerial Association Thursday held at First Presbyterian Church (which was a beautiful gesture on their part, don't get me wrong), it took some finagling for us to even be there. Our photographer was told, in very abrupt terms, he could stay briefly, not take photos of any faces, and then leave. I could write about the service but not approach anyone or interview them.

It was as if I had to avert my eyes to the grief and pain that stood this night alongside the joy friendship. As if somehow by writing about it and sharing it with our readers it would somehow violate very personal and private emotions.

The thing was it was a public, community event.

I had asked the school district if I could come into Fond du Lac High School and talk to kids about the loss of their friends, invite them to share stories and memories of Fue and his cousin, Jerry Vang, and Peng Thao, the 18-year-old driver.

In light of the tragic circumstances surrounding the deaths, a high-speed car crash, I wanted to give their friends a palette in which they could paint a picture of why these three young men were so loved.

The school district said no.

At the death of these students Monday the district went so far as to "have no comment." It wasn't until I contacted the school superintendent the next day and suggested he make a comment that he agreed to do so.

Compared to the Hmong culture's perspective on death the whole experience for me reflects America's view of death, the shame and privacy of grief, the abhorrence to showing emotion, crying, expressing how we feel, unless it is in a controlled setting, behind closed doors.

My best friend agreed it should be private, citing the pain of Jackie Kennedy's face at the funeral of her husband and our beloved president.

But to me, grief shared through the community's newspaper, only enhances the life of the loved one and spreads collective emotion to every parent, brother, sister, and friend.

Who doesn't nod their head, feel a catch in their throat and think to themselves "I feel your loss. I've experienced it too."

Isn't that what community is all about?

I come away from the experience at Fue's funeral, and I hope our readers do too, with a profound sense of the deep love they share, their incredibly painful loss, and an understanding that the need to be comforted transcends all language barriers.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

"The buildings reach up to the sky,
the traffic thunders down the busy street,
the pavement slips beneath my feet,
I walk alone and wonder...




I can still hear my first crush, John Davidson, posing that age-old question on one of his many records. I was 12 and laid in bed staring at his boy-next-door face on the album cover, his blue eyes....please don't get me started on John, a guilty pleasure whom I readily admit is out of character for me to love taking into consideration my hippie persona.

Sometimes you just can't choose who you fall in love with, now can you? ;-D

This long lead-in is to tell you that at age 50, I know who I am, at least one-quarter of what makes up SHARON ROZNIK.

My daughter participated in the National Geographic Genographic Project in which for $99 you send in a hair sample and they trace your mother's maternal DNA line from the journey out of Africa to, in our case, western Europe.

It is beyond cool. The results will blow your mind, and allow you to be a trail blazer in a five-year project that is a grand effort to understand genetics and the human journey.

Here's the premise, according to their Web site:

The fossil record fixes human origins in Africa, but little is known about the great journey that took Homo sapiens to the far reaches of the Earth. How did we, each of us, end up where we are? Why do we appear in such a wide array of different colors and features?

Such questions are even more amazing in light of genetic evidence that we are all related—descended from a common African ancestor who lived only 60,000 years ago.

Though eons have passed, the full story remains clearly written in our genes—if only we can read it. With your help, we can.

When DNA is passed from one generation to the next, most of it is recombined by the processes that give each of us our individuality.

But some parts of the DNA chain remain largely intact through the generations, altered only occasionally by mutations which become "genetic markers." These markers allow geneticists like Spencer Wells to trace our common evolutionary timeline back through the ages.

Different populations carry distinct markers. Following them through the generations reveals a genetic tree on which today's many diverse branches may be followed ever backward to their common African root.

Our genes allow us to chart the ancient human migrations from Africa across the continents. Through one path, we can see living evidence of an ancient African trek, through India, to populate even isolated Australia.

But to fully complete the picture we must greatly expand the pool of genetic samples available from around the world. Time is short.

In a shrinking world, mixing populations are scrambling genetic signals. The key to this puzzle is acquiring genetic samples from the world's remaining indigenous and traditional peoples whose ethnic and genetic identities are isolated.

But such distinct peoples, languages, and cultures are quickly vanishing into a 21st century global melting pot.

That's why the Genographic Project has established ten research laboratories around the globe. Scientists are visiting Earth's remote regions in a comprehensive effort to complete the planet's genetic atlas.

But we don't just need genetic information from Inuit and San Bushmen—we need yours as well. If you choose to participate and add your data to the global research database, you'll help to delineate our common genetic tree, giving detailed shape to its many twigs and branches.

Together we can tell the ancient story of our shared human journey.

My mother's maternal line, which comes from Czechoslovakia, is part of a group called haplogroup H.

Apparently, these people took a very direct route from Ethiopia, through the Middle East to western Europe.

That's about it. It's not very detailed at this point, but the more people particiapte, the more missing pieces of the genetic puzzle will start to get filled in, for example, we'll learn about which groups of people actually traveled this route.

I tried to find out how many people participated so far in the project, I know over 200,000, but when I tried to open the document on this stinking computer, that alien language came up, you know the one: gibberish out the assish.

Anyway, I'm picturing this ancient hippie woman ancestor heading down the road playing a flute made from a bird's leg, somewhere near Moravia, long funky, ethnic robes, OK, maybe some teeth missing and because they didn't wear bras, ever, time has taken it's toll, but when she looks at you with her grey-blue eyes, you feel it deep down in your soul, and it makes you throw back your head and laugh out loud.