This is a story which happened to my friends and me when we came to the Kirksville for studying. I will start from the beginning.
So, my name is Rizvi, I am 21. When I came to Kirksville as an international student from the Sri-Lanka, it was my first time in the rural area of America. Before I came here, some city fans told me that it is a village. So, I expected to see something I have watched in the American movies about rural life. I imagined that everyone is wearing only gray clothes, all men have beards, and all women are wearing only skirts and dresses with white neckpieces. I thought that everyone is praying before each meal and before they go to bed, and that there are no shops, only market where citizens or, as I thought before, villagers change their own products, for example, corn for meat or milk.
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When I arrived here, I saw that it is a very cute town with common people, a lot of shops, restaurants, and entertainments. I imagined it to be a place where everyone is thinking only about the harvest and cattle. Partly, is it true. This is really an important part of life here. However, these people have a lot of other interests. I have never been bored in this town. I fell in love with it. This is an adorable place, where you can hike, go boating on the lake, go to the cinema, play volleyball, and watch marvelous air shows. Besides, there are professional air show performers here. I like the Saturday markets which start early in the morning, near 6 a.m. Thanks to it, I got used to wake up when the sun has not started raising. Here, everything is different from my town in Sri-Lanka. People in Kirksville are very nice. They work hard but every evening, they gather with their friends to drink some tea and to talk. It seems that all of them know each other. It is so great when you go outside and meet the familiar people. This makes the atmosphere here so cozy and warm. I found out that more than 90 percent of the whole population in America is living in the rural areas. I think that they are happy people. I got used to this style of life very fast. Now, I cannot live without this place.
Before the story itself, I want to tell about the people with whom we had this experience. So, my friends are Betty from Germany and Adam from Poland. It was such a funny reason why we became friends. Betty was called by everyone Lisa, and she liked it. I decided that I want to call her Betty, because her full name Elisabeth allows calling her so. She was getting angry and was arguing every time I called her so. Adam supported me and started to call her Betty too. He told her that Lisa is very similar to his neighbor whose name is Betty. Step by step, she got used to this name, but she allows only us to call her so. In such a way, we became friends. We always go to the cinema or bowling together. The greatest experience that we had together was Red Barn Festival. This annual event combines the visual arts, crafts, and performing arts. There are many different and interesting workshops like creating and designing handmade Christmas cards, Baskets weaving, and Handmade Journals. This year, we attended performances of the Kirksville Community String Orchestra and of the Kirksville Community Chorus.
Finally, we get to the main story I am trying to start telling. It happened not directly in the town but nearby. As I already wrote, there are a lot of possibilities in this town. One day, we were so inspired by Red Barn Festival that we decided to change our habits and to go hiking in the forest nearby at the weekend. We developed this idea and decided to go there for the weekend with the tents. We prepared everything we thought was necessary for such trip: tents, sleeping bags, chairs, some food, and matches. Betty took with her some mouline or whatever it is called; I do not remember the exact name of this, to be shorter, such a needful. I am not a prof in this case. So, she took that stuff to spin friendship bracelets for us like in the scout camp.
We came to that place. It was a sunny but pretty cool day. I even put on my jumper. Firstly, we wanted to encamp. However, no one of us knew how to do that. Eventually, we did it somehow. Another problem emerged when we were trying to make a fire. We were helpless. We have gathered a lot of brushwood, and we did not know what to do with it. Fortunately, Adam found on the Internet in his phone how to make a fire. Finally, we managed to do it. All in all, we spent almost the whole day encamping. It was getting dark. Betty offered to tell scary stories. It must have been exciting. She was the first. Her story was about zombies that attacked the big city, and the girl who was trying to run away. It was pretty frightful. Betty came to the moment when “she was standing behind the door and felt that someone was breathing there. And she heard a scaring voice saying…”
“Hello there!” It was the most scaring moment in my whole life when I heard these words behind my back. Then, I heard Betty screaming. She stood up quickly and ran to her tent and closed it. Adam who was also sitting in front of me was just staring into the darkness. I turned around carefully and saw a man. A man who noticed the fire and came to ask for some food was standing there. All the fear was away. Betty was still afraid to go out of her tent. Adam and I gave him some food. Leo, that was the man’s name, was a homeless traveler who did not accept the civilization and prefered to live in the forest by his own. He told us that he was an asthmatic, and he was not allowed to eat a lot. So, he ate a bit and started staring at the fire. It lasted for approximately five minutes. Adam and I did not know what to say, so we also were still. Finally, I lost control and wanted to ask what else does he wants, but Leo spoke first. He asked whether we had anything to smoke. I asked him how he could smoke if he was an asthmatic. He did not answer, just nodded with his head. After a little pause, he invited us to go to his house. We told him that we cannot today, but tomorrow in the morning, we would be eager to come. So, he explained us how to get there: we should go straight and turn left near the big tree to the path; there, we would see his two-storeyed house. Leo built it himself. We promised that we would come tomorrow. He left.
In the morning, Betty was very angry about our promise. She asked us how we could do that. Adam offered her to stay in the camp, but she preferred to go with us. Her question about how a homeless unemployed man managed to build two-storeyed house alone was pretty confusing. This was embarrassing, but still, we went forward. We went straight, found the tree, and turned left. We went along the little path. How we were surprised when we saw this two two-storeyed house!. It was made of… polyethylene! Leo was already outside and noticed us as soon as we came closer. He was very happy to see us. He wanted to regale us with his mushroom soup he had just done. He brought the large cooking pot with mushroom water, and we saw that these mushrooms were toadstool. We said that it is dangerous to eat these mushrooms, because they are poisonous, but he did not listen to us and started eating with his hands from the pot and asked us to do the same. He said that this is his favorite type of mushrooms and if you know how to cook them properly, they lose their poison. He said that he has been thinking the whole night and decided that as long as every day, it is getting colder, he would go with us to the town and stay in our place for the winter. We did not know what to say, Betty started to explain that we were students and lived in the dormitory, and we were not allowed to bring guests. Nevertheless, he said that he would gather his things now. At one moment, I felt that Betty’s hand grasped mine and Adam’s and pulled us away. We ran fast to our camp and grabbed all the stuff. In half an hour, we were in the town.
Later, one friend of mine told me that he knows this Leo. Leo is always saying that he is going with the one he meets and stays in the one’s place, but when he goes to gather his things, he forgets about the deal. Even if you ask him to go with you, he does not want to. He lives a lot of years in the forest and does not need to go back to the town. After this conversation, I felt calm that we left Leo alone. It is just his way of living.
It was one of the experiences that I had in Kirksville. To be honest, with all love and respect to my favorite town, I would never go again camping in that forest. The next time we would be looking for some adventures, we will prefer roller skating, boating or something safer.
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