Not Lost! On an Adventure.

A collection of travel and life related neurotic ramblings by yours truly.

Tornado Tour

on May 27, 2013

Last week I had the unique opportunity to go and visit Rachel and Sarah (of Jordan commune fame, of course!) in their hometown of Joplin, Missouri. I left Denver a sunny 80 degrees and landed a few hours later in what looked to be a hilly tropical rain forest complete with humidity and rain. Oh well! I was so excited to get to see my friends.

The Midwest, upon my entrance to the very small and barn-themed Branson airport (which smells of old people), is everything everyone has ever told me about it. It is humid, hilly, no real mountains in sight, and populated by Fox-news watching Republicans who give directions using the local churches* and some (most) of whom seem to have an aversion to exercise. Lest I offend any readers who may be from the Midwest, remember that I like to make fun of others and do not do so with the intention to harm, but rather to laugh at the stereotypes that happen to be occasionally true! These are my observations as a proud Western American…

Rachel and her brother picked me up from the airport and we drove the couple hours between Branson and Joplin. When we got to her house I was immediately attacked by the young siblings (there are 9 children in their family) all of whom greeted me by name, as they’ve all heard the stories of Jordan from their sisters. For the first couple days that I was there I was pretty sad- all my memories of Rachel and Sarah are of us in Jordan, and while getting to know the ‘America’ versions of ourselves strengthens our friendships it also makes me sad. I very much miss Jordan. They kept me really busy though so I didn’t have too much time for self-pity.

Rachel went back to her university in Arkansas to say goodbye to a few of her friends while Sarah and I stayed back in Joplin. We attended the baby shower of one of their Arab friends (they know more Arabs in Missouri than I do in Denver… jealous!) which was entertaining and ran around with all the little siblings being maniacs. We went hiking and kayaking which was beautiful and calm, something I needed.

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We attended Sarah’s graduation party which she held with a couple other girls from her class- and they had an inflatable bouncy house! I didn’t go in as I like to occasionally pretend I have some dignity left, but mostly because it was really hot and humid outside and I felt a bit gross. I enjoyed getting to meet a ton of new people, as I definitely stuck out in the crowd both as an unfamiliar face and as someone with a shock of blue hair on her head. Everyone was really nice!

Rachel, her mom, her grandma and I all went out shopping one night to grab a few things and they took me on the ‘Tornado Tour.’ This is what the locals call the area of town that was destroyed by the Joplin tornado. It used to be standard suburban homes- now fields and trees have taken over where the tornado ripped houses out of the ground. It was a bit weird to see (akin to my experience in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in high school) but informative to be in the car with people who were there, lived through it, knew what it used to look like. May is tornado season in Missouri (which I totally didn’t know before I went… I should probably at least Wikipedia places before I visit them) and because this marks the anniversary of the Joplin tornado a lot of people were still processing those memories.

We went to Sarah’s graduation which was awesome- graduating is super exciting and can be a bit sad, but it’s good. Sarah was excited and beautiful and getting to be there for this celebration was not something I will regret.

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Rachel and I headed off to her other grandparent’s ranch about an hour outside of Joplin to have a girls’ day with a few of her girlfriends from university, who were from Saudi Arabia. I loved getting to know these three awesome women- the understanding and speaking Arabic was also a plus! We played cards, ate a delicious meal, and ran around their cattle ranch climbing fences, dodging cow pies, and taking silly pictures by the pond. A storm was coming so we headed back to the house (they have the cutest dogs ever) and got the weather report- severe storm warnings and tornado alerts, eek. We sent her friends back to Arkansas and monitored the weather which was looking pretty freaky at that point. We’d had thunderstorms every night while I was there (something very therapeutic about feeling raindrops coming through the window with a warm breeze and rolling thunder) but this was a little more intense. We started hearing the reports about the Moore, Oklahoma tornado and it was approximately that moment that I decided that I would never like to live in the Midwest… I’ll stick to potential volcanoes and earthquakes, thank you! Haha.

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Picking roses- beautiful

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We ran across the fields pretending to be Heidi

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Rachel’s grandma played piano, but all the rest of us could do was Chopsticks. Gotta start somewhere!

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And of course I made friends with Stockings the dog.

We went down in the storm cellar after a tornado alert was given- I carried a flashlight, a couple pillows and some water while Rachel opened the hatch. No sooner had I descended the steps that I realized I was surrounded by cobwebs with living residents and that all manner of creatures that like cool, damp places were all up in my personal bubble… Ew! No thanks. Rachel got around me and cleared my path… I don’t do bugs and tornadoes in the same day. We chilled out down there for about 10 minutes before our part of the storm abated and the skies cleared up. I got out of the cellar and saw her grandfather sitting on the porch sipping his coffee, in his bathroom, dog laying contentedly at his feet. I approve of his method and resent the fact that I had to go in the gross cellar, but it gave me a story here!

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Rachel- ‘This is nothing new.’
Me- ‘I WHOLEHEARTEDLY RESENT THIS EXPERIENCE.’

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The skies post-tornado alert

I left on Tuesday, excited to be back in Denver but sad to leave my friends. It was a very busy weekend but I loved getting to know Rachel and Sarah’s families as well as laugh at the three of us in our American setting. I came back with a host of funny stories to tell as well as the ability to check Missouri off my ‘places I’ve been’ list.

Upon my return to Denver I realized that because of a few days of rain, everything was a brilliant shade of green. I walked back to my apartment through campus and while the day was stunningly beautiful, I only had one thought:

I want brown.

I want brown desert, brown dust, brown houses, brown streets, brown shoes. I want to be overwhelmed by brown Amman just like I was overwhelmed by Midwest green. I wanted mosques, the call to prayer, Arabic.

Moral of the story: I have been entirely ruined by the Middle East, and I’m ok with it. But can I go back now?

*I kid you not- Sarah and I were going to her friend’s baby shower and her mom told us to go past the Presbyterian church, turn left at the Baptist church, go straight past the Catholic church and then we’d be close.

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