Saturday, January 8, 2011

Toto, I KNOW we aren't in Kansas anymore.

I really miss Kansas.  We only lived there for a year, and that was over three years ago now, but I still miss it.  It was hands down my favorite place that I have lived since I've been married.  I didn't think it would be before I moved there.  I mean, who ever hears anything about Kansas, other than the Wizard of Oz, and the Kansas part of that was black and white and full of tornadoes.  I was skeptical at first, because it was VERY far from family, and we knew nothing about the area.  But, my husband was very excited about a job opportunity there, and so off we went.  We moved to a suburb of Kansas City, which is on the far east side of the state.  Some of our favorite Kansas features were, in no particular order:

--libraries--amazing system with any book/movie you can imagine, with a free loan system if they don't have what you want.  There are almost daily programs for kids, with top notch presenters and hands-on activities.

--homeschooling--is very common and not considered deviant.  Homeschool groups and co-ops abound, as well as sports leagues, bands, scout groups, and library groups.

--community activities--daily, free, interesting, diverse

--Whole Foods and Wild Oats--enough said

--church--because it is not the Deep South, church becomes a conscious choice and not a cultural expectation.  Parents seem more invested in spiritual outcomes and attenders seem more privileged to be extended God's grace, as opposed to entitled to it by birth or heritage.  The church we attended (and where my husband worked) experienced a terrible upheaval due to staff issues when we were there,  and the church did not collapse or implode, and continues to reach people today.

--schools--even though we were homeschooling, the schools were very impressive and community based.  Very well rounded opportunities.  Most kids walked to school in our neighborhood. 

--Scouting--I miss this very much.  It was the best program we have ever been a part of, both with Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.

--Fitness--people were healthy.  People exercise and eat well for the most part.  It was normal for people  to order shares of grass fed beef and eat free range eggs.  Even if they didn't get organic foods, there was a basic understanding that it is obviously better and would be more consumed if it were more affordable.  We were vegetarians, but that wasn't freaky or any cause for concern.  Different maybe, but to each his own.  Almost every restaurant had vegetarian options, and several only served organic meats.

--Parks and pools--the community pools were water park quality and the parks were great.

--Easy to live cheaply--OK, I guess anywhere you live you have to be smart and it always takes money to live, but Kansas offered many opportunities to do the 'extra' stuff - plays, museums, pools, classes, movies, etc.--for free.  It may be only once a season, but it a person was willing to endure the masses,there was free fun to be had.

--Snow--lots of it, several times a year.  People didn't become idiot drivers at the sign of the first flake, either.

--Neighbors--this one should probably have been listed first.  I can't describe to you the sense of community and fun that surrounded the people we lived near.  People were outside all the time,  kids played together non-stop, and there is no way we will ever capture that again.  It just doesn't happen like that where we are now.

--Racism--I guess I would sound clueless if I said I never saw or felt it, but I just didn't.  People were  people,  multi-racial couples were everywhere, and no one stared or glared that I could tell.  That is sadly not the experience in Mississippi, where racial tensions underlie almost every interaction, whether intentional or not. 

--Coffee shops--cool, everywhere, all with soy milk

--Garage sales--I am NOT a garage sale person, and never have been, but I went as much as I could there.  I bought Christmas for everyone for $51 that year.  These people had good stuff, lots still with tags, and would leave unsold stuff on the curve sometimes.  I never got any of this stuff, but some other people sure
racked up.

More than any of this great stuff, though, was by far, without a doubt, the kindness and civility that marked EVERY SINGLE interaction we had with strangers everywhere.  Customer service was incredible, and people seemed geniunely glad to serve and interested in engaging people in conversations.  Darren told me about it after his initial visit to Kansas, and while I believed him, I didn't think it was that big of a deal.  I was wrong.  It was amazing, and just reinforces how much I miss Kansas just about EVERY TIME I have to go out in public here.  People are rude, indifferent, uncaring, aggravated here--you name it.  I can not believe that I can routinely check out at a store without having any eye contact or verbal interaction with the cashier.  Wal-Mart in Castlewoods is the worst.  The worst.  Kroger does much better, because they have daily secret shoppers and are rewarded if they get individual good reports.  I say they should do that everywhere.  Do you think you might could get off your cell phone for just a few seconds as you are handing me my change and fries at the drive-thru?  What about you, people at church and soccer games.  I see you every week.  Do you think you could acknowledge my existence?  Novel concept, I know, but now that I have experienced it on a cultural basis, I long for it even more here.

In the meantime, I'll keep my fingers crossed, hoping people will be nicer to each other.  But I won't hold my breath, though.  People around here might not even notice if I pass out.

Have I mentioned that I really miss Kansas?

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