The semi-exhaustive list of individuals I have to thank for getting me to Iowa, or, Why maybe growing up in tiny, tiny Sonoma wasn’t the worst thing in the world

I grew up in California, but I’ve spent all but a couple weeks of my 20s living in various cities in Iowa. When I tell Iowans – especially native Iowans – where I’m from, they look at me in disbelief, almost disapprovingly. They ask me how I ended up in Iowa (though it’s usually more of a “Why?”, though they never use “Why?”).

I usually tell them there’s a short version – that I transferred to the University of Iowa, settled in, and never left – and a long version – a rambling mess that includes three key parts: why I considered Iowa at all (#1 on this list), what sold me on the UI (#2 on this list), and why I stuck around (the husband).

People never want the long version. So I’ve finally compromised between the two, and I now present to you a list version that contains all the people who played some part in getting me here, where I’ve since earned two degrees, gotten married, and now enjoy something resembling a life here. (Now I can just send inquiring Iowans this link!)

  1. Ms. Manchester: My junior year AP English teacher, and the obvious #1. She did her master’s program at the University of Iowa, and when she heard I was going to be driving through the state, she urged me to make a pit stop in Iowa City. I did. I fell in love immediately and applied to the school as soon as I got home. (She was also the first to introduce me to Hamburg Inn, for which I can never truly thank her enough).
  2. Ariel: My good high school friend. She was working for one of our high school teachers, who asked her to deliver his van from Sonoma to Chicago the summer after our freshman year of college. She then asked me to join her, and we ended up making that pit stop in Iowa City a few hours before we arrived in Chicago.
  3. Mr. Donnelley: My – and Ariel’s – high school economics teacher. He was flush with cash from growing some algae before he started teaching in the area and thus felt it necessary to dip into a pool of loyal former students to find a personal assistant. He chose Ariel, and one summer he asked her to deliver one of his cars from Sonoma to Chicago.
  4. Sonoma Valley Unified School District/the city of Sonoma: There’s only one high school in Sonoma. But there are two middle schools, one of which opened the year I started sixth grade. Thanks to a diversity-motivated move from the district, my elementary school and another elementary school across town were the ones chosen to populate the new middle school. Ariel didn’t go to that other elementary school, but she lived in its district, so she ended up in middle school with me.
  5. Old Adobe School: The preschool where Ariel and I first met. We wouldn’t have reconnected in middle school if not for this chance friendship.
  6. My parents: We moved to Sonoma when I was 4 years old. “We” included my parents, who chose to move there. This was pretty straightforward.
  7. My dad’s firm: I think it was their choice to move the company from the San Francisco metro, where we lived at the time, to Sonoma.
  8. Maybe going back any further would be pointless, but I could have gone back quite a bit, until it devolved into a series of “what if” questions: What if my dad hadn’t hated his first college so much he quit during his first semester, thereby graduating from his second college a year later than if he’d finished on time? What if he’d finished on time and hadn’t ended up in the Washington, D.C. area, where he was introduced to my mom? What if my mom hadn’t left Haiti, where she was born, and made it to New York City, where she grew up?
  9. Myself: For the existential crisis that was the process of making this list.
  10. You: Well, either you’re here in Iowa with me and have made this journey worthwhile, you’re someone I knew before Iowa and didn’t virulently object to my decision to move here, or you’re neither, you’re still reading this, and you made it to #10. Thank you.

100 things: Redux (81-100)

Welcome to part 5 of “This 25-year-old revisited her teen years. What she discovered about herself will shock you.” [ Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 ]

  1. Emerging from the darkness
    This.
  2. Knowing someone who likes the obscure things that you like…and becoming friends
    I was going to write that I can’t remember a single friendship that has arisen from us liking the same obscure things, but then I realized my entry didn’t say there was a cause-and-effect relationship between the two. So yes, at some point, I probably have started a friendship with someone where we later learned – or later both discovered – the same “obscure” things. (See #97, I suppose.)
  3. Overcoming fears
    Not yet.
  4. Herbie Hancock
    See #78. Also, in jazz band that year, we played Cantaloupe Island.
  5. Nailing a musical solo :)
    I debated posting a video of me doing just that, but you’ll just have to trust me. My senior year of high school, we went to Orlando for our music department tour, and I had a solo in one of our concert band songs. When they were giving out awards later in the trip, they announced that one of the individual excellence award was for a flute soloist – cue exaggerated nudging from my classmates – that wasn’t me. But all those people thought it was me, so that was fun.
  6. Being Haitian!
    I posted this video on my aunt’s Facebook wall and I woke up to see a bunch of Haitian relatives had liked it and my aunt had commented, “And now I want all of it!!!”
  7. EPIC WINS.
    EPIC STFU CHRISTINE.
  8. Paying slightly more for MUCH better floss
    I bought HyVee brand floss the other day. It’s fine, really.
  9. Peter Jackson
  10. Keeping busy enough not to worry
    Now it’s less wanting to be buy to distract from my anxiety, more needing to be busy because boredom, for me, means I’m apt to marathon several seasons of a TV show and get nothing done for days.
  11. Living in earthquake country – as opposed to hurricane/tornado/tsunami…
    Probably because I think the strongest earthquake I ever experienced was a 5.0 and I slept through it. Since moving to Iowa, we’ve had tornado watches and warnings, but no actual tornados. (Also, I was very happy to miss this fun-sounding quake in 2014.)
  12. Sunsets
    The Midwest has the best sunsets because it’s so flat here. Quote me.
  13. Being chosen for something prestigious
    When I was a junior in high school, my math teacher needed to nominate someone to be one of the two representatives the school sent to Apple HQ in Cupertino to learn about the laptop carts and new tech stuff they’d be implementing on campus. So, of course, he asked a guys – a friend of mine – if he’d be interested in going. Lucky for the teacher, that guy knew better; he admitted he didn’t know squat about Apple anything and suggested me instead. It wasn’t the most prestigious thing I was ever chosen to do, sure, but it was an amazing experience. Plus I got to make a podcast with the superintendent and my middle school principal in one of the workshops we attended at Apple, and I had to call them by their first names, which was SO STRANGE.
  14. Middle English
    That dark period in my life where I was so into being an English major that I memorized a good chunk of the Prologue to Canterbury Tales is over now. But I still follow @LeVostreGC on Twitter, so.
  15. University of Iowa football
    Well, they had just won the Orange Bowl… But seriously, I am still a fan, bolstered by their improbably great season last year. I never did make it to a game when I actually went to school there, though.
  16. Learning more about myself from a book
    This is so vague that I doubt I actually had a book in mind. But if I were to amend this item today, I’d say that I enjoy books that are so similar to my own (past) life and experiences that I can live somewhat vicariously through their characters. Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl is a perfect example, especially the “socially inept college freshman” part.
  17. Sigur Rós
    I could talk about how a good friend of mine introduced me to them in high school, and therefore introduced me to Iceland. I could talk about how their film Heima screened in Iowa City and I was one of the first people to get a ticket. But instead, I’ll just show you this video, because it’s the song my husband and I walked down the aisle to at our wedding.
  18. Reykjavík, Iceland
    A.K.A. “the dream.” My parents have been there, and I’m still not over it.
  19. Powell’s Books
    I’ve been here once. In fact, the entirety of my time spent in Portland has been at Powell’s (and in their strange little parking garage). But I do remember buying a Calvino book – after marveling at how many they had – and getting lost in the stacks and adoring the color-coding and just having a perfect time.
  20. Being myself, not anyone else

#BlackLivesMatter: Des Moines to Baltimore

Hey, Iowans! I just wanted to make you all aware of an upcoming action in Des Moines in support of the uprising in Baltimore. Details of the event can be found on the poster below or on the Facebook event page, but to sum it up, folks will be meeting at the row of flags across from Smokey Row at 19th and Cottage Grove at 4pm on Monday, May 4, and moving on from there.

The event description on Facebook reads:

We are outraged by the killing of Freddie Gray and many other Black and Brown folks who have been brutalized by police. On May 4th we will stand in solidarity with the families and cities who are mourning the wrongful deaths of their loved ones. Nearly 400 black and brown folks have been shot by the police in 2015. We must continue the #BLACK LIVES MATTER here in Iowa and continue to stand up and fight injustice!!!

I’m not sure yet if I’m going to be there, but if I am, I’ll be using the hashtags #BaltimoreUprising and #DesMoinesToBaltimore/#DMtoBaltimore #DSM2Baltimore on my Twitter, @christinesalek. And if I don’t end up making it out there, I’ll be boosting others’ posts from the action.

Related links:

  • Earlier today, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby charged the six police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray with crimes ranging from second-degree murder to misconduct in office.
  • A 2013 segment from All In With Chris Hayes has resurfaced, wherein Hayes and then-Gawker editor Cord Jefferson satirically examine the discrepancies between how white and black people are portrayed in the media.
  • Larry Wilmore went to Baltimore a couple of nights ago to interview rival gang members about their “truce” in the wake of the Freddie Gray protests.

[event poster by Carrie Fisher from the Facebook event page; shared with permission]

Voting in Iowa (and other information)

My first job out of college was as a temporary election clerk in Iowa City, where I processed and fulfilled absentee ballot requests, helped register new voters, tested ballot-counting machines, and answered questions from the public about voting deadlines and Election Day rules (for the 2012 general election). I am by no means an expert in the field, but that experience absolutely helped me better understand how the process works from the inside out, opening my eyes to both the immense amount of work involved in running a successful election and how many ways it can totally fall apart.

As far as voting goes, Iowans are relatively lucky. The ongoing sweep of restrictive voter ID laws across the country has not impacted this state. Unless you are registering to vote on Election Day, it is extremely unlikely that you will be asked to show ID at the polls. Additionally, Iowa probably has the longest early voting period in the country, lasting from when ballots become available (for this election, that was around the end of September) to the day before Election Day.

Regardless of where you live, I encourage you to look up voting laws and regulations – especially those pertaining to voter ID, early voting, and accessibility – for your state. While Iowans have a relative wealth of opportunities in these areas, it is absolutely shameful that states exponentially larger than us have shorter early voting periods, and, in many cases, voter ID requirements that are nearly impossible to fulfill for thousands of already-marginalized voters.

Below, I have provided a few links to Iowa election-related information, along with a fancy voter information tool, where you can look up your polling place and read (most of) your ballot.

Voting in Iowa (Ballotpedia)

Election Day FAQ (Iowa Secretary of State)

Election Day Registration (Iowa Secretary of State)