It has been so nice settling into my hometown of Rock Valley, Iowa, again. Rock Valley is truly a small town. When I say small, I mean it--about 2,700 people, one main street, and one stoplight (not counting the four way stop on the corner intersecting Hwy. 18). Rock Valley is also unique in that the majority of people who live here are of Dutch descent. In recent years, the Hispanic population has grown (so much so that there is an authentic Mexican restaurant and grocery now on Main Street!) but most people have Dutch roots. And in case you didn't know, Dutch people are known for being extremely neat and clean, along with being quite frugal and thus, prosperous. So in Rock Valley, all the homes are neat and clean. The lawns are all beautifully manicured. Even the farms are beautiful to behold--the outbuildings kept up, the animals all in their proper places, everything painted and orderly.
You can imagine that for us, coming from an Asian megacity, with its noise and pollution and dirt and people people people, Rock Valley is a refreshing change. Not only is the town neat and well-kept in general, the people are really great. The vast majority are Christians: probably 80% of the town is in one of the many churches on Sunday mornings. People here really care about their neighbors. Everyone knows everyone, and usually that's a good thing! Case in point--last week John took my dad out to run a few errands and it took them forever, simply because everywhere they went people were asking my dad about his health and reassuring him of their prayers. Since then I've been out and about a bit and just about everyone knows me and knew that I was about to come back to Rock Valley for a while.
Now when I was in high school, this close-knit community started to feel like it was closing in on me. I longed to break free, to be known as my own person and not just by my family's reputations. I wanted to experience more of the world and have exciting adventures. Well, I certainly have done that! It's been interesting to see that now, coming back again, Rock Valley is suddenly quite appealing again. I can see why so many families think it's a great place to raise a family!
On Saturday, the weather warmed up considerably and all of the big piles of snow began to melt, sending rivers running down the street to the storm drains. I was out for a walk, walking for about 30 minutes, and met exactly 6 cars in those 30 minutes, of which two of those drivers waved to me. That's when you really know you're in a small town again!
Because of the great work ethic by most locals here, Rock Valley also has great businesses. The well-stocked local grocery store is a seven minute walk from my parent's home. There's everything from heavy industry to car dealerships to restaurants to clothing and other retail stores, all in town. My favorite place to shop in Rock Valley, though, is a second hand clothing store called the Economy Shop. Since most people keep their clothes so nice (that Dutch neatness again), the second hand clothes are practically brand new! This morning I spent about 40 minutes there and found two pairs of jeans, a pair of denim capris, a sweater set, and three shirts for less than $50. It's great!!! I have been looking forward to shopping there for a long time and am thankful to have found great stuff today that I really needed! What a deal!
The rural scenery has also been a balm to my soul. Yesterday, John and I were speaking at one of our partner churches in Sioux Falls, SD, and so had to get everyone up early and out of the house in order to make the drive to Sioux Falls. Since it was also Daylight Savings Time, we really had to get up early! But we had a wonderful reward--as we drove we saw the most glorious sunrise over the fields. The huge sky was first peachy pink, then rose-colored, then redder and redder until a gigantic, golden red sun rose in all its glory. It was breathtaking! What a great God we serve!
Someone asked me today if I missed our home in Asia. I replied that I missed our friends, and I miss some of the food already, but I am really, truly, enjoying being here. My girls seem to finally be adjusted better to the time--Clara Anne adapted quite seamlessly but Chloe has been up during the night a couple times every night since we came. But it's finally getting better so I'm glad we don't have to go back anytime really soon, now that our body clocks have been reset! The girls are also having a great time with their Grandpa and Grandma, which is really fun for me to see. Today Clara Anne was sitting with Grandpa and suddenly decided she needed her blanket, so she trotted off downstairs, retrieved the blanket, and then came right back and plopped herself down on Grandpa's lap again. How fun!
I hope to have some pictures for you all to see next time--stay tuned!