Knowing Arkansas

Even before people care to know my name, the first question I am asked in my travels is “Where are you from?”  When I answer “America”, the next comment is usually predictable.  “AH, America…where in America?  NYC, California, Florida, Chicago?”

When I answer with “Arkansas”, I get an awkward silence.

I quickly add that it is near Texas in the middle of the U.S.  I typically get even more silence or a quick “oh, okay”.

To be able to give them a fact about Arkansas that anyone in the world can relate to, I say, “We are the state of Bill Clinton.” Eyes light up as they remark, “Ahhh, Bill Clinton.  We know Bill Clinton.” During my trip to Warsaw, Poland, something out of the ordinary happened.

Upon arrival, my couch surfing host had already looked up pictures of Arkansas on the internet (which is not normal for my hosts).  She had an unexpected amount of excitement about what she had seen online.  At first, I looked at her and said without enthusiasm, “Yeah, it’s pretty.”

Sadly, I have to admit that I am so used to most people talking about their desire to visit New York City, Hollywood, Vegas, or Chicago that I don’t ever show any enthusiasm about my state.  As I tried changing the subject, she again started on the topic of Arkansas.

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She peppered me with questions:

  • “What can you do in Arkansas?”
  • “Are there mountains?”
  •  “What do the people eat?”
  •  “What are the people like?”

I didn’t know how to react, given that people rarely ask me questions like this.  Apart from Bill Clinton and the fact we have the only active diamond mind in the USA, I was clueless as to what to tell Paula.

We quickly pulled out her computer, googled pictures of Arkansas, and started to talk again about how beautiful it is. For the first time in a long time, my mind took a walk down memory lane.

I remembered camping in the Arkansas woods or by the river, riding four wheelers around at all hours day or night, jumping in the freezing cold White River, floating the river in canoes, eating barbecue, taking boats and jet skis out on the lake with friends, and even spending the night various times on the water.  We swam under a sky full of stars with no one else in sight.  We learned how to fly fish and we hiked the amazing trails that were within easy reach.

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I also thought about the amazing homemade biscuits and gravy that my mom and grandma made.  Not to mention the juicy steaks on the grill with corn on the cob, garlic bread, baked potatoes, and country bob sauce.  We ate freshly caught fish, barbecue sandwiches, homemade chocolate biscuits, and gravy.

And I can’t forget my Grannie’s delicious goulash. I started to feel emotion associated with all the amazing experiences I had growing up in Arkansas.  Along with the emotion came a feeling of shame.  Maybe the reason people never really wanted to know more about my state is because I immediately showed a lack of enthusiasm about it.

As I sat with Paula, showing her pictures and sharing different stories, I not only became so proud of my roots, but I also realized that I had the answers to the questions that she had asked me about Arkansas without giving boring, unnecessary facts.

All I needed to do was paint a picture in her mind through some of my own experiences and that’s what I did.

I made her fall in love with Arkansas — the people, the traditions, the food, the lifestyle, the beauty of the land.  However, something strange started to set in for me:

“Was I too falling in love with Arkansas?”

 

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This new passion was so strong that when I left Warsaw, Poland, I made a promise to myself:

While it was okay to mention Bill Clinton to allow people to make an immediate connection to Arkansas, I couldn’t stop there.  I must paint a picture of my home state.

Most of the people I meet in countries I visit probably won’t ever actually go to Arkansas, but I have cherished memories of my life growing up there and with those I am able to paint beautiful pictures in the minds of the people I meet to give them a small taste of my beautiful state.

Don’t forget to read: 

 

  • Arkansas people, this is the time for you to share some of the reasons YOU love Arkansas for readers around the world to see.  
  • Also, non-Arkansas people, would you consider visiting Arkansas?
  •  Share your thoughts below!

 

Sarah - thenomadicdreamer.comKnowing Arkansas