The last two weeks in Laramie, WY has been very eventful and eye-opening. I can confidently say I have not been in an area similar to here. Although I have been out west, this environment reminds me of cowboy movies and the small population creates a certain atmosphere in the towns. For one, many of the people here are comfortable and have adapted to the dry, mosquito-filled environment. While our group walks around with flaky, chapped lips and greased bug-sprayed legs, – it’s just another day for the locals. For example, when we were in Rock River for the Fourth of July, when the sun went down many mosquitos came out. After putting a coat of deet on my legs, I began to notice the two local girls we met were casually wearing shorts and short sleeves without being bothered by the mosquitos. Although these observations are understandable, it is interesting to take notice of the things that are normal here but not in Pittsburgh – and visa versa.
Another observation I made about what it may be like to be a human living in the Laramie River Valley, is their access to the less light-polluted night sky, as well as abundant access to open land that has not been taken over by infrastructure. Almost every night we have camped on the spring creek preserve, and most of us have sat out to admire the stars. We can see shooting stars and the milky way. The sky feels so close you can touch it and it was the first time I’ve been able to make out the milky way. The people of the Laramie River Valley have access to this right in their backyard, while in Pittsburgh light pollution disrupts our access to fully appreciate and view some of these aspects of the night sky.
Lastly, I have noticed that, as expected, people seem to have more close-knit, small-town attitudes and traditions. For example, the people are very friendly. I was walking down the sidewalk on the way to the Jubilee parade and a woman walking her dog said hi to me – which would not normally happen when walking down the streets of South Oakland. Also, the girls we met playing volleyball at the Fourth of July celebration were very friendly, as well as some of the other locals. A tradition a group of us saw at the Jubilee days celebration was a game called bed racing. This unique tradition includes having someone lay on a bed on wheels in the street (that was closed down) and four people at each bedpost. The goal was for the people at each bedpost to push the person to a marked-off spot and back the quickest. Many people crowded around and watched, and each team had a team name. This was interesting to see, and everyone around acted as though this was a normal thing while our group was confused and in awe of the strange tradition. One thing that has helped me adjust to my new surroundings is having fourteen other classmates also in the same position. We can all relate and discuss when we notice how special or different things may be in this area of the same country.