Rain-sticks can be found in many different parts of the world.  People from different cultures may have discovered how to turn a cacti or other similar plants into rain-sticks on their own.  Some say the rainstick was used in ceremonies to call for rain.

This photo shows the Capado cactus from the southern part of Atacama Desert, the driest place on earth.  This type of cactus lives about 60 years and when it dies, after it dries out, the cactus is hollowed out, creating a tube.  The spines of the cactus are cut off and pushed inward so they protrude inside the hollow tube.  The tube is then filled with small pebbles or beans and the ends blocked off.  When the cactus tube is turned the pebbles fall inside, hitting the spines of the cactus creating the sound of rain.

Take a look at this video of a lady explaining the Rainstick and demonstrating how it is played.  Stay with the video because it really sounds cool when she turns it on the side to play it.

I know you must be curious about what it looks like inside but please don’t cut it open.  Here is a video of someone doing this so you won’t have to.

PS – Confusion arises over the plural of cactus because its original plural form (cacti) derives from Latin and native English speakers are drawn to cactuses, which adheres to the standard ruling for forming plurals. Both cactuses and cacti are acceptable. Of note, cacti is the more common plural.

It is Chile!

Everyone should have received their boxes by now.  As I post this month, the items in the box will become much more meaningful.  You should have a Chilean flag, a book, a fidget spinner made of copper, a rainstick, a Lapis stone, and Night Sky playing cards.

Chile is a beautiful country bordered by the Andes mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other with a small section bordering the South Atlantic Ocean.  North to South the country is 4,270 km (2,653 mi) long.  The width is narrow however with an average width of 110 miles.  At the most narrow point it is only 40 miles wide!

My hint was “you would need to dress for cold weather if we left right now.”  That is because Chile, a part of South America, is in the southern hemisphere.  They are in their cold season when we are in our warm season.  If you look at the way the earth tilts in relation to the sun at this time of the year, you can see why there is this difference in our seasons.

Chile has one of the driest places on earth, the Atacama desert. The mountains are so high that they block moisture-bearing clouds from this desert. Long stretches of rainless periods can pass in the region but when rain comes it can leave the desert floor covered with beautiful Mallow flowers, occurrences that can be many years apart.     imrs.php

Chile has active earthquakes.  The biggest Earthquake of the 20th century occurred in Chile May 22, 1960.  It was so strong that it showed that our whole earth can vibrate like a guitar string.  The tsunamis that resulted from this quake hit Hawaii and Japan.  The waves, traveling 200 miles per hour, landed on Hawaii nearly 15 hours after and Japan 22 hours after the quake.  Can you imagine being a boat at sea and seeing that nearly 90 foot wave coming?  I plan to post an in-depth explanation of the earthquakes and tsunamis this month.

The playing cards you received have constellations on them to remind you that Chile is the best place in the world to view the night skies.  We will travel to the sites of scientific study of Astronomy and learn about their findings.

Every country we have been to has had very unique features….the biggest, the best, the driest,…..  Do you get the feeling that every country has something very special for us to see and learn about?  I do and I can’t wait to see where we go next.

The Castles of Ireland

Castles are romantic places to visit in Ireland.  Some were built as fortresses meant to protect the occupants from invaders.  Some were build as residences of the powerful and wealthy.  Some were built as a statement of new conquests. Many are open to the public for exploration and appreciation.  Some are even available for overnight stays.

You received a Blarney Stone in your travel box.  This stone is of the type found at the Blarney Castle, a popular tourist spot.  The legend goes that kissing the Blarney Stone at the castle will give you the “gift of gab”, an eloquence in speech, the ability to convince with flattery.  You can learn more about the stories behind the stone here.

The photo of you all standing together in front of a beautiful castle came from Rock of Cashel (meaning fortress). This site describes nicely the prized art and work to restore the beautiful frescos in Cormac’s Chapel within the Castle.

You may have seen some of these castles in movies.  Trim Castle was in the movie “Braveheart”.  An older John Wayne movie “The Quiet Man” used the Ashford Castle and surrounding area as a setting.

Castles are not just found in Ireland of course.  I found a really interesting site, a directory to castles of sort.  It lists castles and brief descriptions, lists castles and the movies made at those sites, lists haunted castles, and provides descriptions of different attributes that are important to understanding castles.  Take a look at this site when you have some real time to explore.