Welcome to Iowa

By Robin Hemley

June 26, 2023

Welcome to Iowa

Suffering from jetlag after the 24-hour trip from Singapore, I walked to a convenience store near us and purchased a couple of Red Bulls to keep me awake. The bearded dude at the counter saw the cans and said, “Getting wild tonight, huh?”

“Nope,” I said. “Getting over jetlag.”

“Oh wow, where are you coming from?”


“Wow. Well, welcome to Iowa.”

“I live here,” I said.

“Oh, how long were you in Japan?”

“Three days, but before that I was in Singapore for a year.”

“Singapore,” he said. “I’ve never been out of the country. Well, Canada. At least here, we got toilet seats with covers.”

“They have them there, too,” I said. “It’s a modern country, one of the most advanced in the world.”

As I was leaving, he said, “I bet it’s more humid here.”

“Singapore is right by the equator. It’s humid. I’m freezing outside right now.”

He laughed and said, “Good luck.”

Welcome back to Iowa, I thought. Another thing he didn’t know, (besides the fact that Singapore outpaces Iowa in more than just toilet seats) was that the rest of the U.S. thinks of Iowa the way he imagined Singapore. I once hosted a couple of New York journalists at my Iowa house and one of them brought me a bag of coffee and chocolate. “I wasn’t sure you could get these here,” she told me. “Thank you and welcome to Iowa,” I told her because really, what else was there to add?


Robin Hemley is the author of fifteen books of fiction and nonfiction and has won prizes and fellowships such as the Guggenheim, Pushcart, and the Independent Press Book Award. He writes a substack Turning Life into Fiction https://robinhemley.substack.com/ and his website is Robinhemley.com.


Image by Jozsef courtesy of Adobe Stock

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