For the next six weeks, my posts will be a plethora of Arabic signs and cityscape pictures, and, I'll admit, I am partial to locales that require airplanes to reach them. However, my last few days in the Midwest, with the crazy cast of characters I call family and friends, deserve some recognition. So here is my tribute to the nation's breadbasket and my hometown.
I have never claimed to be a social person, but considering I was about to jet off to a place with questionable wifi signal where I would be unquestionably busy, I decided I should do my best to hang out with a few friends before I left. I started with a Thursday afternoon trip to the Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I spent a blissful four hours overwhelmed by koala cuteness and monkey hilarity and of course birds. And language. Standing, staring at a rather disinterested Scarlet Macaw, I made a remark to a little boy near the bird cage: "Isn't the color pretty?" He proceeded to give me the most confused look I had seen from a four year old and, fearing I had crossed the stranger-danger boundary, I was about to leave, when his mom came over and started speaking to him in German! I tentatively pulled out a "Sprechen Sie Deutsch?" and was met with rapid fire response I couldn't possibly comprehend. Walking away with an "Auf Wiedersehen," however, I was still grinning. The conversation had been brief and disjointed, but it was communication and it was spontaneous and it was glorious.
I believe friends can come in all forms, including the forms of four loud, brilliant, smiley children. Friday morning I took three of the four children I nanny (sadly one was away at day camp), to Arnolds Park Amusement Park in my hometown of Arnolds Park, Iowa. We rode The Legend Roller Coaster at least four times. It is the go to opener and closer for any park adventure.
After that came the Ferris Wheel, a personal favorite, and some ridiculous spinny contraption that curdled my insides and made the seven year old laugh in delight. Of course, park days are not park days without pizza, so we took a break for a few slices of cheesy goodness. Then came bumper cars and more spinny rides because, again, the logical timeline for a seven-year-old's stomach is a mystery to both anatomy and comfort. We ended with frozen yogurt and my slight regret when I heard the oldest boy say, "Carson is so nice, she let's us get way more then we are supposed to." So I can be blamed for the sugar rushes and sugar crashes, but at least we all look happy right?
I spent my last two full days in Iowa with the four people I see the most often: my parents and my two brothers. We didn't try to cram in deep discussions or last minute excursions or even mull over melancholy goodbyes. That is not a Miller thing. Instead, we lit the firepit at ten in the morning, sat on the wet grass reading books, and shared almond biscotti. We laughed a lot. I said goodbye to my dog. The day was good.
And it got better with Mexican food. We headed down the crowded (now that I am in DC, I understand this was perspective, but still quite upsetting) Highway 71 to Los Pueblos. I ordered a quesadilla and even managed to complement our waiter, Michelangelo, on his serenade to some unsuspecting bachlorette in Spanish. Also, the wonderful Louis made sure to stop by and walk me through, I'm sure, a painfully slow conversation. Language attempts have a way of bringing out people's best moods.
And then there was Sunday. We spent the day at a Sioux Falls Canaries game, met some truly gracious baseball players, and watched my ever-eager brothers sprint around the bases during post-game ceremonies. I am so thankful to all the players who sat with amiable smiles signing merchandise and offering batting advice to over 50 little league dreamers.
And now I'm off. I left Sioux Falls Regional Airport at 6:15 and will see it again in 47 days. I am beyond grateful for all the lovely people in my life and the little niche of Northwest Iowa I call home.