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Iowa to Me


“Stand up and introduce yourself,” said Mrs. B.

“Umm…Hi, my name is Bonkuya. Nice to meet you all,” I said. These were the first words to have ever exited my mouth when I first got to City High. I was new to Iowa, and even though I had lived here for about a week before my first day in school, I hadn’t spoken to anyone until that day. I wasn’t all that interested, to tell you the truth.

It took a while to get used to this place at first. Things were quiet and peaceful, which is something I wasn’t used to being from Chicago and all. Something else I wasn’t used to was being bored. I hadn’t made any friends yet, so I had nothing to do but play games, which on many occasions got boring. That was quite a surprise for me. I mean, I played Final Fantasy games, 007 games, Tony Hawk games, Disgaea, Kingdom Hearts games, SSX (Snowboard Supercross) games, and well pretty much all of them. Either way, when you get to being at home all day for hours on end with nothing to do but own your little brother in video games, you kind of get tired of it. Once school started, many things were different.

After my first day in school, I went home and followed the same schedule as before, but today there was this knock on the door. I went to answer it only to find that it was a neighbor from down the street. He and his family just came by to introduce themselves and welcome us here to Iowa City. It was actually quite surprising. It seemed more likely that something like that would happen on T.V. rather than in actual reality. Where we lived previously, I highly doubt that such an event would occur unless they were surveying the house for valuables. I mean, we lived in Chicago on the South Side. That’s the worst side to be on. You heard gunshots every night, houses were either broken down, abandoned or boarded up, gangs roamed the streets everywhere, fights broke out just about anywhere at anytime, and quite frankly, no one wanted to be there. What was once known as a great city had deteriorated into one of the worst environments to live in.

Here in Iowa it’s the opposite, but in some ways it’s the same. Unlike Chicago, it’s boring here. I have to keep myself distracted or I will go crazy. Instead of sitting around doing nothing, I would take walks around the neighborhood. After all, the best way for me to know the area is to see it for myself. I observed a lot. I saw some people out walking dogs, some out taking jogs, and some out with their kids. It seemed peaceful, like nothing was wrong with this place.

Pretty soon I started to make some friends at school and started to see Iowa City for a more welcoming place for me. Don’t confuse my kind words as a way for me to say Iowa City is one of the best places to live because I would be lying. I say this because soon after the end of the school year came, there was an period of small isolation, depression, caused by the insecurity and disbelief of others around me. It is human nature to alienate or eliminate anything that may bring fear, distrust or danger to ourselves or to what we believe to be our home. And I was experiencing that.

People in Iowa and people from Chicago are very different, but in a way we are the same. A lot of Iowans pegged us as thugs, gangsters, drug dealers, delinquents and criminals. We pegged Iowans as rich, peaceful, caring and honorable people. There is some truth in both of these stereotypes, but there is also a wrong side about each.

Yes there are some who come from Chicago who deal drugs, who are gangsters, who are criminals, but not all of us are. For example, I don’t deal drugs but I do deal cards. I am not a criminal, but I am a student and I work hard at being one. I’m not a gangster but I do hang with a gang of friends. I may have come from there but that’s not how it always is. Some people think the youth in Chicago aren’t intelligent either, but we are an awful lot more intelligent than they think we are.

We were wrong too. We assumed everybody here were nice, accepting, peaceful people. The truth is not everyone is, especially the youth. I mean, sure, there are a lot of honorable, nice, peaceful people here, but I can honestly say that I haven’t always seen that. I would have to say about 40 percent of Iowa City is how I assumed it would be. Some areas here are just like Chicago. From what I have seen, you got kids here who smoke and drink and use drugs just as much as they do in Chicago. You have some people who are rude, and some when they look at me detest me for what they think I am.

Here’s the message I’m am saying with all of this: You can’t judge anyone based on looks or what you can really read about them. You can only know about someone if you saw it for yourself, and most of my time here, if people just did that, they probably wouldn’t have had so much of a hard time accepting me.

But like I said, there are some who are honorable people. I have a friend named Joel. He is my best friend here. He’s like a brother to me and he can say the same for me. He and his family see me as part of their family, and you know that really helps me get through this when it’s hard for my own family to do that. You have all of my friends like Ari, Gomer, Lea, Auvery, Kyla, Sam, Patrick, Rai, David and a lot more out there who treat me like I am human and that where I come from doesn’t matter because I am more than where I am from.

To me it was quite pathetic to see how immature some fools tended to be. How they needed to grow up and stop seeing the world for what they wanted it to be and start seeing it for what it was. It made me feel disappointed in myself for allowing these fools to bring me down. So I laughed it off and found out who my real friends were.

Anyways, I would guess the community of Iowa City is a good one, that is if you fit “their” criteria of normal. But that’s the thing. I’m not normal and I never will be. After all, normal is boring. Kind of like Iowa City.


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