So I’ve been getting some gentle prodding lately from a friend who wants more blog posts. I know I’ve fallen sadly off my Year 1 pace, and I’ve resolved to try to be better next year. Maybe I’ll even do some flashback posts to cover the trips and events that I didn’t write about last year.
In the meantime, I’m midway through my summer and currently in Lawrence, Kansas for a workshop/conference related to the work that I’ll be doing at my school next year. It’s my first time in Kansas and my first time even remotely in this area of the country (the closest I’ve ever come is Michigan). It might not be as exciting a location as others I’ve been to this year, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how many Americans only visit a fraction of the 50 states, so there’s something to be said for knowing your own country along with visiting others.
Impressions of Kansas so far: hot, but bearable so far; and people are really, really nice. The airport shuttle driver mentioned to me that it’s much more humid here in eastern Kansas vs. western Kansas, likely due to the proximity of the river, but I have to say, if this is what Kansans consider to be humid, they should consider themselves lucky. The bank display in downtown Lawrence was displaying 99 degrees today at 6:45 pm, and it may have been a couple degrees cooler than that in reality, but typically when Boston hits 90+ degrees you’re just about ready to kill yourself.
Also, everyone I’ve encountered is super friendly. Even the college-aged kids at the sandwich shop or the man in the qwik-e-mart just seem genuinely happy to help you, ask how you’re doing, wish you a nice day, etc. I’m luckily a little more primed for this than I would ordinarily be because I was in Scandinavia last month, where people are also really nice, but it’s quite an adjustment coming from Bulgaria, where the notion of customer service doesn’t really exist. Bulgarians, especially Sofians, make Bostonians look like Kansans (Kansans would just be beyond the comprehension of most Bulgarians, an alien species). The thing is, most Bulgarians are actually really sweet, generous, lovely people…but only when they know you. If they don’t, they’re standoffish and unwilling to extend themselves on your behalf until they’ve ascertained whether it’s worth it. So needless to say, I have a hard time not reacting with instant suspicion when these Kansans are just so gosh-darn happy to see you.
I also can’t handle American money at all, apparently. The bills feel too long and the paper feels wrong, plus they’re all the same color so you have to actually look at each one to figure out what denomination they are. The coins feel weird, too – quarters are too thin, and the sizes of pennies and nickels feel different than they used to. Compounding my problem is the fact that I still have stotinki and euro cents mixed in my change purse, so all these nice Kansans think I’m a nutcase as I have to dump out all my change into my hand and peer really closely at all the coins to determine which ones to use. I guess the whole, hold-your-handful-of-change-out-and-let-the-local-pick-out-what’s-needed strategy is a lot less excusable in your home country. Also, the contents of my wallet right now would baffle anyone: the qwik-e-mart guy tried to be helpful by pointing out a penny in my hand, but it was actually a 2-cent euro piece (which then prompted him to ask where I was coming from and whether I had just moved to Kansas, which in turn forced me to tamp down my instant stalker suspicions and just answer the nice Kansan man).
This was not a very exciting blog post, but I just have to get myself back in the habit of writing, so consider it a warm-up. There’s also not a whole lot to do here after my workshop wraps up at 4 pm each day, so I expect I’ll be back. Right now I’m off to use the hotel gym. There’s really nothing like working out while watching the Olympics; it both motivates you and shames you at the same time. Last night I was running on the treadmill while all the track events were being aired but I gave up doing the math on how much slower I was than Olympic athletes, for one thing because I’m still no good at metric conversions even after two years abroad, and for a second thing because it was depressing.