Everyone keeps telling me Arizona is part of the contiguous United States. It's even one of your neighboring states! they say. Check the map! they say. And well, they're right. I used to teach fifth grade, so I know US geography (mostly). When you look at a map, yes, Arizona is right down there by New Mexico.
But when I go to Arizona, like I did last weekend, I'm not so sure I'm still in the US. It feels more like a tropical vacation than a domestic destination.
I think it's the palm trees. Palm trees! In your front yard! Can you imagine?
Or maybe it's the citrus. It's a pretty cool feeling knowing that the orange you're eating for breakfast came straight from the orange tree in your backyard.
And don't even get me started on the cactuses (hereafter referred to as cacti because that is a much more fun word to say, and because according to the dictionary, both are correct). Cacti! Spiky tall cacti! You know, straight and tall with two arms bending upwards. Otherwise known as one of the three things I can actually draw in Pictionary. Then there's small cacti! And cacti that look like those little dancing things on Super Mario! Right in your front yard!
Or maybe it's the rocks. Everything is green in the Pacific Northwest where I grew up. Green grass on the lawns. Green leaves on the trees. Green moss growing on every surface. But in Arizona, it's all about the rocks. Roadway medians are decorated with rocks. On our Sunday walk, we even saw a neighbor whose whole entire lawn was rocks. Lines were raked into it like a Japanese garden. If my home in one word is green, then Arizona is brown. And rock-filled.
It's true - I've never been there in the middle of the summer. The hottest time I've visited was early May, and I was drowning in heat in the 100-degree afternoons. But according to the locals, it "wasn't summer weather yet." According to them, "the hot season hasn't started yet." And there I was with swollen fingers, drinking ten gallons of water a day. I'd probably shrivel up and die during a real Arizona summer. Just leave me in a puddle on the sidewalk. Come get me in December when it's not hot anymore.
The locals of Arizona do weird things. I remember being woken up at 6:30am during my first visit because a neighbor was mowing his lawn. At 6:30am! That would have been considered rude where I grew up, but in Arizona, it's normal. Everyone mows the lawn at 6:30am because you have to do it before it gets hot. Just like you have to hold youth group from 9-10pm if it's an outdoor activity, because that's when it cools down.
And you should see the parking lots down there! There is the usual cluster of cars right at the entrance of the store, but the bulk of the cars are spread out throughout the lot. It took me a while to realize why. Shade! If there's a shady spot, cars will wait in line to get it. And speaking of cars, my husband assures me that you are crazy if you live in Arizona and buy a car with dark leather interior. Too hot.
So I guess the jury's still out on whether or not Arizona is part of the US. The map says one thing, but all other evidence points a different direction. Either way, we had such a fun trip last weekend. Sam's aunt and uncle were so kind to host us and feed us and plan fun activities for us. We like them a lot. We just wish we could have stayed longer! Blast that work and school. ;)