Seeing Another Side of Kansas City
I had waited for this spring break for a long time. I was planning to go to Kansas City. I looked up Kansas City in Lonely Planet and felt pity that I could not find anything there that interested me. It is definitely not my type of city because it does not have surrounding mountains or anything that sounds extraordinary. However, I would be taking this trip with my boyfriend, who had grown up in this city since he immigrated to America at the age of 14. What made this trip even more exciting was that I was going to meet his parents for the first time.
For this journey, we chose to ride the Amtrak train. Even though it took us 24 hours, we used the time to catch up on the news and enjoy the train journey itself. Through the windows, we saw the beautiful Arizona red rocks, the majestic New Mexico snowcapped mountains, vast desert, lush valleys, and several flowering orchards. My boyfriend typed on his laptop, and looked out of the window every now and then. It seemed like he was trying to get some inspiration from the landscape.
Through the windows, we saw the beautiful Arizona red rocks, the majestic New Mexico snowcapped mountains, vast desert, lush valleys, and several flowering orchards.
On the train, a little girl caught my attention. She had blond curly hair, purple socks, and pink pajamas. Sitting beside this little angel was her exhausted looking old grandpa, who was hooked up to an oxygen tank. He was holding the girl’s tiny palms and chatting with her. He reminded me of my grandpa. My grandpa was getting older every year just like this old man in front of me. He could hardly walk and could not go anywhere without his oxygen.
At night, we did not get much sleep. The wheels of the train went round and round, making the same, monotonous, lonely sound. My boyfriend held me tightly to keep me warm during the cold night. We enjoyed listening to the audiobook, To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. Her beautiful language moved me so deeply, as if we were on the beach and listening to the ocean’s rhythm. Our feet moved closer, as did our hearts. Sometimes, I wished we could stay on the train forever and never reach our destination.
Upon arriving in Kansas City, we met my boyfriend’s parents. They had been waiting for a long time and were excited to see us. His parents were very kind and treated me like their own daughter. The longer time we spent together, the more I felt like a family member.
It was late March, and we had arrived in time for the Persian New Year (Nowruz). Like our Chinese New Year (Spring Festival), Persians celebrate the special day with plenty of food. His parents love cooking, and we made several trips to buy cooking ingredients. They also taught me how to cook Persian food.
To celebrate the New Year, they made fried bread, faloodeh (a Persian dessert drink made with droplets of wheat starch), and a stunning variety of Persian dishes. They put butter, salt and fresh herbs in the white rice and dried mint in the yogurt. They made fried fish with Persian spices, grilled lamb’s kidneys and liver, falafels, stewed greens, sour plum snacks, turmeric-seasoned chicken kebab, turkey mixed with beans, and more.
I also had the chance to meet my boyfriend’s extended family. Like my Chinese family, they all like to get together frequently, eat their own food and watch Persian movies. As immigrants in America, they haven’t lost their food, accent, or culture. Compared to American culture, which advocates individuality and freedom, Persian culture is much closer to Chinese; we appreciate family time.
My boyfriend drove me around the city and told me stories about each place we passed. He showed me the restaurant he used to go to, the supermarket where he worked, the hospital where his cousin was born, the coffee shop where he went with his friends, his high school, college, the art gallery, and even the green lawn where he used to lie after school. He also told me about his friend who had died from anorexia and the difficult times he had faced.
Compared to American culture, which advocates individuality and freedom, Persian culture is much closer to Chinese; we appreciate family time.
The Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden was the highlight of our trip. Before visiting, I had been feeling sorry for the people who lived in this area. It seemed that there was nothing to do except shop in the numerous malls and grocery stores. However, in this small garden, I saw the winter jasmine and the yellow daffodil blossom. In the early spring, the sun was warm and gentle and the bronze statues and fountains were lovely and elegant. Seeing this little gem tucked away in the city was quite a relief for me. There I could avoid the crowds, take a walk, and appreciate nature. Funded by the Kauffman Foundation and maintained by volunteers, this park prohibits commercial use, like weddings and other events, which makes it a rarity.
We also walked through the Country Club Plaza, the oldest plaza in the United States. The classic Spanish architecture and the numerous fountains and statues made me feel like I was traveling in a European city. Brush Creek, which flowed along the plaza, created a magical and romantic feeling. We sat on the bench under the bridge and talked about the future. Neither of us had any clear ideas about what we would do. The only thing we knew was that we wanted to love, cherish, and never leave one another.
Now that I am no longer a student, the trip to Kansas City has become one of my most wonderful memories. It was not an exciting trip like many of the adventures that I have taken in America, but it was a family trip spent with the person dearest to me.
Top photo credit: Zach Werner