Avoca, IA

I’m biking east along I-80 and today I’m in Avoca, Iowa, just because my ex-colleague at Sun Microsystems told me this is his home town.

I grew up in the center of Tokyo, where the population density is roughly 20,000/km2. I had 4 train stations in the walking distance, and all of them had trains coming and going every 10 minutes in the least busy hours of the day.

Looking around Avoca in Google street view, I tried to imagine what it would be like to grow up here. The population density is 270//km2, basically 1% of what I’m used to. But there’s a school, a main street, a post office. It’s 45 minutes drive away from Omaha, so you still have access to worldly things.

If I’m a kid in this town, I’d imagine my parents would allow me complete freedom of where to spend afternoons after school. All I need is a bicycle. I did have such freedom in my youth, but my daughter didn’t. I suppose the norm has changed in 30 years, but probably not in Avoca. That’s wonderful.

It’s hard to imagine what you haven’t experienced. You need somebody to tell a story to help us be there. This is true not just about your childhood environment, it’s true about so many things. One of the reasons why podcasts like This American Life pulls me in. This country, with so much diversity, has so many stories to offer. You just need to listen to them. I wish more Americans would do that. If we do, we wouldn’t have been this divided.

(This trip is virtual, not physical)

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