On March 15, 2019, I got an email from Ms. AA, from ACYPL. She informed me that my fellowship placement was with the Information Technology Department of the City of Des Moines, Iowa, and my host is Ms. AW (I will talk a lot more about her in the other post).
Des Moines??? I swear I never heard about this city before. The first thing I did was look it up from google. I also made a post on my facebook asking what do people know about this city, all I got was "Slipknot", a heavy metal band from Des Moines.
I found some information about Des Moines but I really can not imagine what kind of city is it.
"Even the locals had expected that we might have never heard of their city before"
There were 5 of us (ACYPL's spring 2019 fellows) placed in Des Moines, Me from Indonesia, Mr. DDA from Vietnam, Ms. AH from Brunei, Mr. Ic also from Indonesia and Ms. KE from Philippine as well as our coordinator Ms. AA from Ohio.
When we arrived at the Des Moines Airport, it was a small airport, I don't think that it was any bigger than Soepadio Airport in Pontianak. I was soon got the impression of a small quiet city.
The street was quiet as well, even Pontianak's street is still a lot more crowded than Des Moines is.
Freedom Walk Around Iowa Capitol Building
We were very unlucky that during most of our time there, it was cloudy and rainy spring (the winter just ended not long ago). I cursed myself for not bringing extra layered clothing.
Most of the time it was raining and quite windy (it broke my umbrella), holding on a hot cup of coffee really helps warm my hands.
ACYPL, mostly Ms. AA, really surveyed the premises, we got luxury accommodation (fully furnished) and it was within walking distance from our offices except for Mr. Ic.
Me and Mr. DDA share an apartment, we had our own bedroom with bathroom inside, and a shared kitchen ( I was lucky that Mr. DDA was a good cook).
Every morning on working days, I walked to the office, it was 10-15 minutes walk, sometimes on sunny days, I rode the bicycle (operated by Bcycle).
The peoples were really nice, every time I passed someone, either they greeted us or gave a warm smile.
"Although the weather was cold, the peoples were not"
The working days are Monday to Friday, start as early as 7 am and end at 4 pm. Which quite surprised me, I expected that people will start working around 8 or 9 am due to the weather.
Working with the city's department, I noticed that they did not use any attendance machine to record employee arrivals and leaves. They use a personal approach which involved the management team to make sure each employee finished their work on schedule.
For people living in the suburb, it could take some time (can take more than an hour ride with a car) to arrive at the office. So they tend to leave home earlier.
I Was Given Cubical Work Station Too
The IT Department's office accommodates the employee with a cubical work station equipped with a computer, and the desk can be raised to give an option to the working environment, which some preferred standing than sitting on the chair.
Staying for a month was not nearly enough, during weekdays, we were quite busy with the works, sometimes we even had activities at the weekends.
Going to Grays Lake with Do on Bcycle
Despite so, in my free time, I tried to explored Des Moines as much as I can. Sometimes I went out with the group, lake, park, baseball games, and other places, other times I went alone.
Oh, I almost forget to write about food. I was expecting tasteless food but to my surprise, most of the foods in the restaurant were very salty, but homemade foods were simple dishes. I also noted that almost every restaurant offers free iced water despite its cold weather.
We were visiting the juvenile detention center once, I had to say that even their detention center was way better than most of our schools, from their the facilities, management, and programs. I wish we had visited the school.
I met with Ms. AW's kids, they were bright and brilliant. Which made me really interested in how the American family raises their children and their education system.
Our First Baseball Game
Iowa Cubs vs Strom Chasers
We also went to watch our first baseball game in Des Moines, it was between Iowa Cubs vs Storm Chasers, a really cold evening. We didn't manage to stay until the end. It was too cold for us, so we decided to head back before we froze to death.
Comparing to some of our friends placed in the other city and state, staying in Des Moines was cheaper (too bad we got less allowance too). I think it was mostly because of Iowa's low taxes.
We brought our daily necessities mostly from the Hy-Vee, it was located within 5 minutes walk from our accommodation.
Every Saturday, the quiet neighborhood suddenly transformed into a lively market. It was the farmer's market open every Saturday in the downtown area, right in front of our accommodation.
Once a year they also held a celebrASIAN, there were a lot of Asian in Des Moines, something I never knew before. And yes, Indonesian stall is there as well, I met some Indonesian in Des Moines previously.
My Last Day in The Office, Lets Visit CelebrASIAN
Parks in Des Moines
The girls were quite angry with me since I didn't ask them to join us for an evening walk to Ewing Park, there was a Lilac Arboretum, the flowers smell really nice.
And sometimes, when the others were busy with their schedule, I went out alone. Farmer's market, botanical garden, science center, etc.
The Botanical Garden
Science Center 1
Science Center 2
I think I was one of the few of the grown-ups in the science center, lots of kids. But hence I enjoy myself there, it was an educating experience for me. Lot of things I never knew before.
I remember they had an experiment lab, where they played with fire and ice, rocket experiment, and so much science stuff which I never experienced as a kid. I wish we could have this kind of educational center in our city someday.
Travelling in Des Moines can be tricky, there were bus services but not all part of Des Moines is covered and I don't know whether they have concession prices, we mostly used Uber or Lyft (online taxi services) for long-distance, Bcycle or walk for short-distance. But they did have a free bus ride for a certain route (I think it was only serving one route)
Free Bus Ride
I really wish I had stayed longer in Des Moines. It's a small city, but somehow I really enjoyed every second of my time there. I would certainly visit there again if given the chance.