Arizona kicked us out.
It was just too cold for us wimps, we can’t handle seeing our breath freeze and crack in front of us, chipping the ice off of our tailgate and wearing woolen long underwear so we have some feeling in our limbs. Okay, I’m exaggerating a little, but NOT MUCH. Arizona is frickin’ COLD, y’all, like BITTER COLD.
We couldn’t take it. One day at the Grand Canyon, two nights in Williams and we were frozen. Two out of three of the kids were sick and I was right behind them. Snot, coughing and misery abounded so we headed for Flagstaff to see my friend Jalalieh.
Flagstaff and Jalalieh
She and I were friends in Hawaii, she came to Taiwan to live and work with me. We used to climb the mountain together, we had a small pet water turtle and she introduced me to Elf Quest and Lord of the Rings.
She grew up in Samoa, I grew up in Fiji. We are both third culture kids of a missionary bent. All of these things, our shared culture, the travel we did together, the bike riding and long talks, Taiwanese candy shops, Mr. Brown ice coffee, big dreams and big stories. We had it all. And we had each other – friends like this are few and far between. You know.
And so, 20 years after last seeing this person that I love and have this shared history with, I got to see her again, this time with kids!
I moved to Tucson from Macau about twenty years ago, largely on the basis of the book, Generation X. In the book, they had a picnic in the desert, complete with red-checked cloth and I thought a picnic in the desert with a red-checked cloth was so achingly cool, I had to do it. And I wanted to go to grad school.
It was a toss between moving to Tucson (and U of A), or Flagstaff (NAU). My mom said I’d “love Flagstaff; it’s so small and cute”; so of course I moved to Tucson. The desert town where I could have my picnic and go to grad school. (I had my picnic, but I ended up going to grad school in Vermont.)
Tucson and my year and a half there is a story in an of itself. I struggled so hard to figure things out – work, friendships, love. I’m sure part of it was normal in being just 21 and a part of life, but it was also so much to do with being a third culture kid and being deaf.
I loved my friends that I made in that time more than I knew.
Where was I. Right, I was telling you about how Arizona kicked us out.
In between the Grand Canyon and Jalalieh and Tucson, we made spur of the moment side trips to Native American ghost towns – that is, ruins of places that people once lived.
We fell in love with them. The beauty of the desert, the light, the red rocks, the feeling in the air that this place was special, had magic to it.
Arizona is loaded with National and State parks! It/s awesome because we would be driving and see the sign for a park, and be all, “hey! A park! Want to go?” We’d pull over and check it out, Micah would get started with a Junior Ranger program, the little ones would run around and try and climb the ruins or nap or a combination of anything.
It was a lot of fun.
And FREE fun, thanks to the Access Pass.
Things unfolded differently than I expected them to in Arizona. I thought I’d be able to connect with the disability community and the deaf schools fairly easily: I wasn’t. That was disappointing.
I wasn’t expecting to be bitten by the cold. Nor was I expecting to get sick, along with Mac-Q and Moxie. Wasn’t expecting to like the National and State parks so much. Wasn’t expecting to have a picnic in the desert for Thanksgiving, like my original reason for moving there twenty years ago from Asia.
Arizona will always have a place in my heart and it was good to share places that I’ve been to and loved with my family, discover new ones together.
We’d like to go back when it’s a little warmer.
More of the real-time adventures are on Instagram – I’m @meriahnichols there if you care to follow my feed – and of course Facebook – at A Little Moxie
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The Access Pass is a card that you can get from the National Park Service in the United States that allows a person with a permanent disability to access National Parks for free. Only one member of the family needs to have a disability for the whole family to enter on the card. Disabilities that ‘count’? Any permanent disability – my deafness and Moxie’s Down syndrome both easily qualify. For more information, see the NPS website. You can apply at the Visitor Center or gate of almost any National Park for free; it’s $10 through the mail.
Access in the Parks:
Physical Access was great in most of the ruins that we visited. I wouldn’t want to be a braille reader though, because they had some wonky places where they placed the signs (why do they place the “bathroom” sign around 6ft up?).
Deaf access is just nonexistent. I think I’m so used to this that I’d be shocked if something was actually captioned or in ASL. I was honestly bummed about this when we were at one of the parks and I wanted to hear the interpretive ranger’s talk on the ancient civilization at Montezuma Castle and had to leave because the lipreading was too exhausting.