It starts with the puddle jumper plane ride into Green Bay.
I find that flights are usually an exercise in diligent ignorance of the person next to you. A polite “excuse me” or “safe travels” is normal, a conversation is usually grounds for asking to change your seat. Flights into Green Bay are the opposite. People talk, hug, exchange phone numbers. It’s as likely that the person sitting next to you will know your second cousin’s boyfriend as it is that they will help you with your bags as they will run into you at the grocery store during the time you spend on the frozen tundra my parents call home.
Yes, Midwesterners are friendly. Friendly to the point that I know East Coasters who are beguiled, bewildered and even slightly uneasy around the smiling, earnest, and unfailingly polite Midwesterners that move to DC.
While I was home, I took a gander through my high school year book. Senior year I was voted “most assertive” which I think is a euphemism for “headstrong” or possible “b*tchy.” Here in DC though my “assertiveness” is nothing; I get called “sweet” and “nice” and “peanut.” What gives?
If being a Midwesterner in DC is an adjustment, being a Midwesterner who moved to DC and visits Wisconsin only on occasion is no less interesting. Some things I noticed while back in Green Bay:
My accent (no nasal “o”) makes people look twice.
The best food in town is at my mom’s house (elsewhere, deep-frying is the cooking method of choice).
The Target center is fully stocked and no one has “sampled” the cosmetics then put them back on the shelf (a la Columbia Heights).
Sushi = variation on a theme of tuna and tempura.
Washington, DC = very, very, very far away.
Restaurant dinner plates are big enough to sled on down our snow-covered hills.
The bill for dinner two at a nice-ish restaurant: $16.00.
Reaction to the news that I got married in a backyard to the most amazing half-Irish-half-Chinese man in the entire world and that we were moving to China: somewhere between all-out shock, happiness and disapproval. Shock that we would move so far away, happiness that I was married and disapproval that we were married outside a church.
Notable radio ad: “Jesus is the reason for the season.” (Its interesting to note here that the current ads on the DC metro buses are all about humanism and a how great it is to NOT believe in God).
My father lowers his voice and strangles a little saying the word “gay” even as he becomes probably the first financial planner in Green Bay who chose to become trained in financial planning for domestic partners. (He also believes that no one he knows is gay but I won’t hassle him yet on that account. Baby steps).
Being married at 24 is not the anomaly in Green Bay that it is in Washington, DC- rather everyone wants to know when you will be popping out the babies. For the record: NOT ANYTIME SOON.
I saw A black guy and 4 Koreans…over the course of 4 days.
Green Bay isn’t a bad place, or even necessarily a backward place. In fact, its probably average for the country. Nice, suspicious of outsiders, and fiercely devoted to fried fish and cheese. Its the kind of place where “traffic” means there are a few cars on the road and people (including my parents) routinely leave their doors unlocked when they go to bed at night.
There are kids building snowmen (even in May!) in the front yards and there is some pretty fantastic devotion to Christmas decorations round this time of year. Yes, I say Christmas exclusively: I learned in high school that Green Bay has the highest per-capita density of Catholics in the entire country. The closest mosque or synagogue is probably at least an hour away.
It’s a sheltered place to grow up, but its still a nice one. I won’t say there wasn’t a steep learning curve in leaving Wisconsin but there are far worse places for a kid to grow up or a family to settle down. For my part, I’m happy to know that I can always visit…and equally happy that I can always leave. 🙂
To a Happy New Year to you and yours!
2 posts down, 363 days to go in a year of posting daily
Camera cord has gone missing, there might be a dearth in photos on this blog for the next few days, eeks!