Toto, I’ve a Feeling We’re Not in Kansas Anymore …

So I have two prompts so far to inspire posts: Hamlet, as recently performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company, and life in the Midwest.

I’m going to take the latter first, as I had to search for the RSC production. Since it will take me three hours and a bit to first watch and then digest the general awesomeness that is David Tennant and Patrick Stewart (as well as the time needed for me to just stop quoting the play), I’ll take the easier option first.

I’ll first acknowledge my biases, although not necessarily in order of importance. First, I am from Texas, and thus think that Texas is the gold standard by which everything of merit regionally should be measured. It’s certainly better than *your* state. Second, I’m an engineer, and third, I’m a Christian. Both of these have an influence on my priorities, or even just what I notice.

Things about the Midwest, as they occur to me:

Corn.

Oh my goodness, there is a lot of it. And soybeans. Fields and fields and fields of the stuff. To be fair, it’s really good. There’s just a lot of it. I confess that when I first arrived at Purdue I was expecting a small town set in the middle of nothing but corn. What I found was almost that; however, because there is a river running through town (or rather, the town was built around the river) there are also trees. In addition, I didn’t expect …

Golf courses.

There must be at least three or four golf courses in this town of ~40000 people. They really like to golf around here. I don’t know whether this is peculiar to the Midwest, or just Indiana or West Lafayette, but I have honestly never seen this high a concentration of golf courses. I mentioned this when I was back at Wiess over spring break, and one of our faculty associates, a math professor, explained to me (illustrating with paper and crayon) exactly why he detested golf courses. It was an amusing fifteen minutes.

Pigs.

Pork is a lot cheaper than beef here. And beef is pretty expensive. Go figure.

Churches.

There is a church on almost every block here, and I’m very close to not exaggerating. Indiana is very much in the Bible Belt. This is both beneficial and detrimental: It’s great in that there are a lot of excellent, doctrinally sound churches among which to choose and then get involved with. However, this also means that there are a lot of people who are simply culturally Christian; they’re Christians because their parents and grandparents were, and it’s not really their own faith. This makes it very hard to engage people in conversations about faith, because it feels like the dialogue is over once they say that they’re Christian.

Cultural insensitivity.

This is mainly something I’ve observed among undergrads who are from the area. There are plenty who have never left the Midwest (and plenty who were born, raised, go to school in, will get a job in, and will probably die in Indiana). Their reactions to new foods, foreign cultures, and questions about things I take for granted (“What’s curry?”) remind me of my reactions when I was ten (“Ewww, *weird*”).

Weather.

The weather, when it’s not snowing and/or below freezing, is actually pretty darn nice. My energy bill is a lot lower than it ever was in Houston.

Towns.

Everything is really close together. On the freeway, I’ll pass through a little town of some sort every fifteen minutes or so, and I can drive through or across three states in four hours. In Texas, if you’ve got a neighbor within a day’s ride, it’s time to move.

Doors.

Guys don’t open doors for girls here, unfortunately. It’s not that I think it’s my right to have a door opened for me, it’s just that I’ve gotten spoiled/used to common Southern courtesy. You also don’t hear a lot of “sir”s or “ma’am”s.

That’s all that’s really standing out right now. I was expecting gas to be a lot more expensive, but it costs only a little more. And I saw something yesterday that said Blue Bell ice cream was going to be available in Indianapolis; I’m definitely going to have to check that out.

“If I owned Hell and Texas I would rent out Texas and live in Hell.” – P. H. Sheridan

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One thought on “Toto, I’ve a Feeling We’re Not in Kansas Anymore …

  1. Haha, thanks for indulging me. New England compares:

    *No corn fields. Or fields of any kinds except for public parks.
    *Nor any golf courses that I’ve seen…
    *Nor any pigs
    *Few churches, mostly with wishy-washy doctrine. But lots of nice old church buildings and a fair share of strong, passionate churches. As you might expect, very little cultural Christianity.
    *Lots of cultural diversity and maybe *too* much political correctness
    *The weather is stunning for about two weeks in the fall and two weeks in the Spring. The winter is too long (lasts until May) and the Summer wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the complete lack of A/C just about everywhere. Oh yeah, and it’s always really windy.
    *I one time crossed a state without noticing.
    *It’s not so much the lack of Southern hospitality so much as the overt Northern hostility that gets me. I get funny looks when I hold open doors and one woman got angry with me when I called her Ma’am.

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