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Postcard from Midland: Chips and salsa

It's a town where cowboy hats are still worn. To work. Where the occasional tumbleweed still rolls through downtown. Belt buckles are big. Trucks are huge. The second personal plural of "y'all" is widely used.

It is, in many ways, a separate world. Coming home to the West Texas town of Midland, where my family lives, is enough to put me in reverse culture shock. I didn't grow up there, just attended high school. I don't always feel like I have much in common with its residents, with the exception of my addiction to burning hot salsa and fresh corn chips.

Even when I came home after living in another place in the US such as Chicago, I found myself marveling that the two places could be in the same country.

My first trip home from Egypt, Midland and Cairo seemed like they existed in different universes. I felt like my brain might short circuit thinking about both at the same time.

This was my second trip home. And I gave up trying to reconcile the two. Easier that way, I figured.

I drove down some of the dusty streets of the town, my eyes squinting in the sun, I passed the old drive-in fast food places, the bars where field hands and oil field workers go to have a drink after work, and the ranches on the outside of town that stretch for miles and miles, the oil rigs that keep the town alive and growing, and the ever-present hardy mesquite bush that is the only plant that can grow naturally on the desert ground.

They seemed a little more beautiful, parts of the place and integral parts of my experiences, just like the scene of a sunset over Cairo traffic.

And one afternoon, I stopped to meet some friends at a Mexican restaurant for lunch, I walked in from the bright sun into the dark, air-conditioned restaurant, complete with Mexican tiles and cheesy mariachi music playing in the background.

Sitting down, I joked with the waitress that I didn't want a dish, just chips and salsa.

She smiled, and said, "Honey, I know what you mean."

After the first bite, my tongue burning from the jalapeno, I gulped my water. And at that moment, couldn't have felt more at home.

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