Summer Scenes

Last week we have friends from Canada and California visited and stayed with us for a few days. It was a mini-reunion of sort for my wife and her two friends, since all of them have not been together at the same time for about 20 years. I know Iowa is not really a tourist destination, unlike Niagara Falls and Disneyland area where these people came from, but just seeing old friends was enough for them to come.

Aside from enjoying each other’s company and reminiscing the good ‘ole days, we also tried our best to show them that visiting our place is worth their trip. Perhaps with this photos I can convince you also that we can be a tourist destination too.

We start with our immediate neck of the woods.

home sweet home

my wife and her friends having fun

We have other visitors too that frolic in our yard.

fawns in our yard

ducks swimming in the man-made pond

we are blessed to live in this idyllic neighborhood

We also showed our friends downtown Des Moines.

our State Capitol

downtown Des Moines as viewed from the Capitol (note the flag is at half staff)

Courthouse in Des Moines

We went and toured the Salisbury House in Des Moines. This mansion was built in the early 1900’s by cosmetic magnate Carl and Edith Weeks, and was modeled after the King’s House in Salisbury, England.

entrance hall

great hall

In the great hall is an antique piano. The tour guide even allowed my daughter to play it, after he made sure she adequately cleaned her hands. This old piano’s current market value is estimated to be almost half a million dollars.

antique Steinway concert grand piano

dining hall

vintage car in mint condition in the mansion’s garage

One of our favorite place to bring our visitors is to “The Bridges of Madison County,” which was featured in a book and film (starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep) with the same title.

Roseman Bridge, built in 1883. One of the few remaining covered bridges of Madison County

racing back through time and history

under the bridge

We also spent half a day wallowing in a nearby community water park.

floating in the lazy river

lining up to the water slides

Our friends’ visit was just in time for the annual National Balloon Classic festival held in Indianola, Iowa.

blowing up the hot-air balloons

Up, up, and away in my beautiful balloon!

my son climbing the stone wall at the balloon festival grounds

balloons coming in for landing

We also drove to the nearby state of Minnesota to visit Mall of America. This mall is the biggest in the USA. It is so big it has an indoor theme park at the center of the mall.

“Air Bender”ride

“Log Chute” ride

log ride crashing through the water

“Swing Along” ride

“Fairy Odd” roller coaster ride

With all the walking and touring, it was indeed tiring. But my family and our friends and their family, had a fun time together. Maybe next time it’s your turn to visit.

tired but happy feet (my wife’s and her friends’)

(*thanks for my “official” and “unofficial” photographers for the pictures)

My Patch of Paradise

A friend of mine who is a journalist and a Palanca Award-winning writer from the Philippines visited us here in Iowa a few days ago. I have invited her over for many years, and finally she came. Maybe she got intrigued if Iowa really is as beautiful as I described it, or maybe she was just being gracious as a friend, and finally gave in to my open invitation.

Before she flew over, she scoured the bookstores in Metro Manila looking for a travel guide about Iowa. But she got disappointed. She did not find one. As far as Filipinos in Metro Manila, Iowa is not on their radar. It is not on the map. It does not even exist!

When I was about to move from Florida to Iowa many years ago, I told my friends about it. They asked me where the heck is Iowa, and the next question was if I was going crazy. Then I have to tell them where exactly is Iowa on the map. And as far as their second question is – I’ve been crazy for a long time, nothing new. When I told my folks in the Philippines that I will be moving to Iowa (after living in New Jersey, New York City, Los Angeles, and Florida), they asked me if Iowa is still part of the United States. Yes, many people think Iowa is in another planet!

After years of living here, many of our old friends still cannot recall where we really are. When we get in touch with them, they would ask, where we are living. Ohio? Idaho? Pluto? No. Listen, we live in I-O-W-A.

My friend stayed with us for only a couple of days, but it was enough to give her a lasting impact. After touring her around, she was impressed of the place we live in. After years of telling her of this place, and reading my blogs about this place, she finally saw it herself that Iowa is not just an artifact of my imagination. By the way, this is the friend of mine who encouraged me to start a blog in the first place.

My friend was so impressed that she even wrote an article in her newspaper column in the Manila Standard Today about this place, “A little patch of paradise.”* Maybe it was the sight of the horses, and the smell of earth that inspired her to write it, as she is a horse enthusiast. Maybe it was the deafening sound of silence, and the velvety blackness at night in our place, that inspired her and cleared her head to write this. Or maybe it was the white chili soup that my wife cooked that inspired her. Whatever the reason is, I thank her for putting Iowa on the map, at least for Filipinos.

Maybe next time someone is looking for an Iowa travel guide at National bookstore in Manila, he or she will find one.

my patch of paradise (photo taken at one of the Covered Bridges of Madison County)

(*link of “A little patch of paradise” is from on-line edition of Manila Standard Today)