If there would be a lesson in life, this trip really forces me to face the fact that life is too precious to take the good things in life for granted.
Nearly everyone dwells in the past at some point. That’s okay, but some people do it more often and are more likely to get stuck in their own sorrow. What you think comes about. Over time your thoughts become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It took me a long time to realize that it is only a mindset to become master over your own thoughts. Of course you have to cull out your gutter at one point but clinging to outdated issues only have a negative effect on you. I met this friendly guy in Chicago. To a certain extent we had a lot in common. The biggest difference is that he still dwells in his past and I moved on.
Everyone has to deal with his own difficulties in life. For me being childless-not-by-choice will always leave a scar, but on the other hand having children will probably be an even heavier burden at times.
My return to Kansas has made me realize even more how vulnerable we are and the importance of appreciating life.
Winfield, the town I use to live 30 years ago lost all its liveliness. I think it disappeared after the non surviving companies closed their doors. I was shocked by the poor state of maintenance and the many abandon places. I was told that in Arkansas, a neighboring town, the degradation is even worse. This might be part of the reason of the high rate of alcohol and meth addictions. As we speak one of my former classmates is in jail, probably for possession of drugs.
But even more so I was shocked by the amount of friends who are terminally sick, fighting their illness or overcame their illness. I wish every cloud has a silver lining. Bless them all.
The other day I had this really open conversation with one of my host ‘sisters’ who fought cancer. I was touched by the way she spoke about how she coped and overcame her illness. She took me to a boxing class. Believe me, she is super fit. You go girl!
I guess the best spirit is to count your blessings. There is no use crying over spilled milk. Move on and as my sister quoted ‘do not sweat the small stuff’. -Bregje
A lot of people tend to look for an authentic trip. I have to admit, I am one of those. I write off entire countries or cities for being “too touristy”.
Nowadays with the greatly increased tourism it’s getting harder and harder to find areas that are still authentic. Over the years I’ve been to several places that were still pretty unknown when I visited. Unfortunately mass tourism destroys all the authenticity. Like Machu Picchu in Peru. I just heard that they take turns to visit the ruins so it will not be over-crowded. How about the long-necks in Burma. Some women have decided to abandon it, choosing a more modern style. Some continue to wear the rings, not because of any dedication to the tradition, but for pragmatic, commercial reasons instead.
My ultimate authentic experience would mean going to places where I would be the only foreigner, I wouldn’t be seen dead amongst loads of annoying tourist who are taking over the entire place by being loud and obnoxious. I rather think of myself as a foreigner than as a tourist. I get a kick out of it when people ask me for directions, of course this makes it a lot harder when I am the only ‘white’ around.
My favourite holiday memories are the times I’ve done a bit of exploring on my own. There’s so much joy in hiring a bike, catching the local bus or just wondering around in out-of-the-way towns and villages where day to day life still goes on as normal. I’m glad I had this opportunity, but it also made me realized that my traveling to rural areas harmed the authenticity of these places. It made me decide to quit backpacking to these rural areas.
Two years ago I went on my first home swap. These swaps and also staying with friends give me the opportunity to still experience a bit of the day to day life. This year I returned to Kansas after 30 years. It’s like time stood still. Just like back in ’87 I did not expect to find any cowboys in Kansas. Gracefully the cowboy culture is still alive and kick’n. I’ve been privileged to enjoy a fabulous stage show by the Prairie Rose Rangers, a true classic country band and to witness a rodeo at the Winfield Cowley County fair.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have a second chance to participate in this authentic everyday life of Kansas. -By Bregje
Growing up as a teen in the 80’s in Winfield, Kansas was a huge difference compared to being a teenager in Holland. The biggest contradiction was going out on Friday’s. Back in the late ’80’s Dutch teens were allowed to go to a bars and drink, but weren’t allowed to drive till they turned 18. While kids from Kansas could drive from the early age of fourteen but had the restrictions on alcohol till the age of 21. Which meant that Dutch teens use to ride their bikes to a bar to hang out with peers while kids from Kansas would “drag Main” instead on their night out.
“Dragging Main” was the primary activity on Fridays after the games. On a good night, there would be twenty other cars honking as you drove by. Some nights there were only a handful of cars.There were several solutions on even making a slow night to an adventure.
Like trowing (beer)cans at innocent kids on their bikes, fooling other road users by pulling down the drivers-seat while steering from the middle seat, mooning at other cars or by far my favorite activity the Chinese fire drill. A Chinese fire drill is a prank in which either all the passengers or the driver excluded jump out of the car at an intersection, run around the vehicle and before the light changes to green gets back inside, but not necessarily in their original seats. If one of the passengers lags, the others may drive off without him or her.
After an evening dragging main the wise kids went home and the ‘cool’ kids gathered together to drink at the Grove or some college kids house.
In case you wonder to what group I belonged, the right answer would have been ‘the wise kids’. By Bregje
To everybody’s big surprise I graduate High School in 1987! Thanks to my mom, she was a great support. After graduating my mom offered me to go to the US to improve my English. I did not think much of it, but agreed. Up to today I’m so happy that I went. Of all places the exchange program dropped me in Kansas. At first I cried my eyes out. Why? Why Winfield, Kansas?! Why not Florida, California or a city like New York?
Looking back on my exchange year I feel advantaged. Advantaged in a way that I had the opportunity to experience the authentic Midwest living. Cowboys and cowgirls still exist in the late ’80. Except for the part that they redeemed their horses for pick up trucks.
A while ago I did this virtual tour on google earth all around Winfield, Kansas. Like time stood still, it hardly changed in the past decennia. Once a year there is this big blue grass festival. I would love to go there some day.
During my High School year ’88 I stayed with three different families. The first one kicked me out after about 6 weeks. Up to today I do not know the reason why I could not stay with my first family. I can only speculate. The following week I managed to find myself a new place to stay. I did not want to worry my mom, so I called her after I had everything arranged. Being a teen I choose a family with lots of freedom. A single mom and a daughter my age. The last month I moved to Wichita, where I stayed with a big Mexican family. A widow mom with 8 daughters and one son. I had a wonderful year even though it wasn’t alway easy being a seventeen year old far away from home in a different culture than my own.
It’s hard to realize now but back in the ’80 there was no internet. My classes I spent writing letters to friends and family. Once a month I had the opportunity to call home for only 5 minutes to reduce costs.
It impossible the imagine a life without internet now. In a way it makes my world a lot smaller being able to be in contact all the time, but it also makes it so much bigger. Sharing my blogs to all these known and unknown people all around the world. -Bregje-