Several times a week, people in Topeka ask me where we moved from.  On hearing “Arizona,” they nearly always suggest that we got it backwards.  Apparently, people are supposed to move from Kansas to Arizona, not the other way around.  They wonder why we did this and how Topeka differs from Phoenix.  The answer to the first question is easy (to be closer to family); the second is more complex. 

In Arizona, javelinas walked across our patio during the day and then returned at night to rip the Christmas lights off our bushes and dig up the yard.  Cayotes and bobcats wandered freely through our backyard. In Kansas, ducks walk across our patio and wild turkeys, rabbits, birds, and squirrels make themselves at home in back of our house.  In Arizona, our yard was covered with crushed rock; here we have a lush, green lawn.

Weather forecasts are much more exciting in Kansas.  In Arizona, the weather forecasts range from “Sunny and hot,” to “really hot,“ and “you’ve-got-to-be-kidding hot.”  The only suspense is wondering if you’ll break another heat record.  Last summer was particularly boring; Phoenix recorded the most days ever with temperatures over 105, over 110, and over 115.  People cope by reminding each other that it’s “dry-heat,” and that in January, it will be 145-150 degrees colder in Minnesota or Wisconsin than Arizona in July.  That’s supposed to make you feel better.

The evening weather forecasts are gratuitous; you know it will be hot and sunny. The only prediction you can make with confidence in Kansas is that you will have weather tomorrow.  If you don’t like the forecast, change channels till you find one you like. Your guess is as good as the meteorologists’ as to what will actually happen.  We went from tulips to snow and back within a few hours.

In Kansas, instead of dry-heat, we have wet-cold.  To be fair, the locals warn me that when the relative humidity matches the temperature (the upper 90s) in July, I will long for the dry-heat of Arizona.  We’ll see.  In Phoenix, rain is exciting; you look forward to it for months.  Two-tenths of an inch is a downpour; here, that’s a sprinkle.  

When Arizona weather forecasters predict a light breeze, expect to see a few leaves moving in the wind.  When Kansas weather reporters say, “tomorrow will be ‘breezy,’” batten down the hatches.  “Breezy” is the local euphemism for a “howling wind” that might rip the branches off your trees.  

In Arizona, when you see one of those infamous haboobs rolling in, you dash home and shut all the  windows to keep out the dust. (It doesn’t help much but at least you tried.)  In Kansas, houses built on a slab (like ours) have “safe rooms”( 4’ X 6’) with thick, concrete walls and ceilings that can withstand tornadoes.  Everyone has a cell phone app that warns you to take cover when tornados and other deadly storms move into the area.  

Every place we’ve ever lived was special:  We had a poinsettia fence in Congo.  The steamed crabs and shrimp in Maryland are to die for.  Seeing “the Big 5” in their natural habitat in Kenya was unforgettable. The fall colors in upstate New York are beyond stunning.  The mangos and pineapples in the Philippines are the sweetest in the world.  We miss the amazing fruit and vegetables of the San Joaquin Valley.  I loved biking around the monuments and historical sites when we lived on Capitol Hill in DC.  In Arizona, you live outside—wearing shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops most of the year.  Getting “dressed up” meant putting on shoes and maybe even jeans.  On a cold day, you wear a sweater unless you’re a “snow bird” from Minnesota or Wisconsin.  (You can recognize them by their shorts and t-shirts when temperatures dip into the 30s.) 

We’re enjoying our first Kansas spring—the green grass, the gorgeous tulip gardens, the flowering trees, singing birds, beautiful parks, green spaces, and delightful spring rains.  We’re learning to drink “pop” instead of “sodas,” though to be honest, I can’t tell the difference.  We’re looking forward to exploring Kansas and enjoying our friends and family here in the Midwest.  

So did we move in the wrong direction like most people here seem to believe?  Probably not….

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