Camber Carpenter, CC, as I call her, and I met in a small hostel in Taipei. One rainy day, I was hanging out at the hostel couch when four girls walked into the door. It was a particularly full day for the little hostel. All of us played ‘Apple to Apple’ that night which I was not really good at (of course). Four ladies, who are artists by the way, and I shared the dorm, and Camber was the one who taught me the different side of Hong Kong. She said there’s a lot of hiking trails in Hong Kong, and told me how great they were. That was a very refreshing fact for me. The brief few days in Taipei lead me to visit Hong Kong. Though I didn’t meet Camber, I hung out with my other Sister’s City authour, Meaghan McGurgan. Camber visited me in Seoul last year, and we bought winter hats together. We are totally bringing that to Cairo.
She lived in Brookings, South Dakota when she was in University. I asked her about Brookings. Let’s see what she has to say about Brookings, South Dakota.
1. Which words would you use to describe Brookings, South Dakota? For example, I would use ‘historic’ for Seoul.
Brookings: strong, old-fashioned, scholarly, friendly, hard-working (that applies to the people)
2. Did you feel Brooking as a home?
YES. After attending the university there for 4 years and the closeness of my family to the town, it definitely feels like a home.
3. Honestly, I haven’t heard about Brookings, South Dakota. Frankly I don’t know much about South Dakota either. Would you tell us the overview of Brookings?
Brookings’ main attraction and source of income is the college: South Dakota State University. With a school population of over 11,000 students, it doubles the population of the town when school is in session. Brookings, like many smaller towns in the Midwest of America, has a very friendly feeling. People smile and wave at strangers. People always help neighbors when in need. Many South Dakotans are farmers (corn and soy beans/cattle/hogs/sheep) and that way of life permeates society. People are hard-working and take care of each other.
4. Tell us about your favourite and the least favourite thing about Brookings, South Dakota.
My favorite part of Brookings in the downtown area, where there is a hamburger stand called Nick’s that has been there since the 1929. They have great hamburgers that are so small, many people eat 4 or 5 at a time. I love the used bookstore with a 3-legged cat. One of my favorite things to do when I go back now is to find my former English professors and talk about life. Also, my university has a large dairy department and they make their own ice cream–it’s delicious!
Some of my least favorite things….hmm…too many fast food restaurants. Brookings has: McDonald’s, 2 Burger Kings, 3 Subways, Arby’s, Culver’s, Qdoba, Taco John’s, and a Hardee’s. It has one good pizza place (George’s), a Chinese restaurant, and a good Mexican restaurant, but other than that, it lacks in really good food. Many people cook at home. Also, Brookings has a Super Walmart, which is convenient, but it has made many other smaller businesses shut down.
5. Since Brookings is a college town, I’m guessing there’s a lot of opportunity to get various food. Is there any ‘Bookings special’ food? What was your favourite?
Ah! I should have read this before: NICK’S HAMBURGERS. I’ll expand. There is a challenge out there (Americans love food competitions…hahaha) of the record number of hamburgers eaten at Nick’s. The current record is over 70. Yes, 70 hamburgers. I usually eat only 2 or 3.
6. What is the most famous landmark? What’s your opinion about the place?
The most famous landmark is the Campanile on the campus of SDSU. It is a tall structure with a red light at the top and bells inside that can play a variety of songs. Visitors to Brookings must be sure to climb the stairs to the top of the Campanile. You can get a view of the campus on two sides and the beautiful countryside on the other two sides. I enjoy the Campanile. It’s a reminder of my time at university and a very easy meeting point for people.
7. Did you have any secret hangout place in Brookings? The place where you feel most comfortable, or had the most fun.
There are no secrets in small-town America. Everyone knows everyone else’s business. It’s true. But I spent a lot of time at an apartment called “The Renegade.” It was right next to my brother’s apartment, but I spent more time with the people in The Renegade than I did with my brother. We played poker, did lots of Dance Dance Revolution, watched movies…and there were cows right across from the parking lot.
8. If you can invite anyone to Bookings, who would you invite, and why? It doesn’t have to be realistic, anyone from novels, movies, or musical.
I would love to invite anyone who has never been to the Midwest and anyone who thinks that Midwesterners are backwards and uncultured. I’m not sure exactly who that would be….anyone Hollywood, I suppose. But I think Brookings could counter that thought. We have a nice art museum, lecture series at the university, a wonderful dance school, and a great coffee shop.
9. How much is for a cup of coffee?
Another nice thing about Brookings–things are cheaper than in big cities! Coffee runs at about $2-$3. There is a mini-Starbuck’s inside a grocery store.
10. Do you remember, “Ah, this is Brookings and I love it!” moment?
Going back 2 years after graduating, and meeting up with old friends. That’s when the appreciation for Brookings really set in.
11. If you are traveling to Brookings, you wouldn’t forget to bring…. ( )
Sunscreen in summer, a huge winter coat, gloves, hat, ear muffs, and boots in winter. And if you’re driving, an ice scraper for your car. It gets COLD.
12. How much time would I want to spend in Brookings if I travel there?
A traveler visiting could easily see all of Brookings in one day. Then there are other interesting things to see and places to go in the area.
South Dakota’s most famous monument in Mount Rushmore, located on the western side of the state (Brookings is in the east, near the border of Minnesota) The author of the famous books “Little House on the Prairie,” Laura Ingalls Wilder, was born in a town about 40 miles from Brookings, and they stage a play about her each summer. Sioux Falls is the biggest city in South Dakota and many concerts, traveling theatre shows, and art exhibits hit Sioux Falls, which is less than an hour’s drive from Brookings. Mitchell, SD has the Corn Palace, a building covered with ears of corn; the design changes every year.
13. Tell us about your favourite memory while you were living in Brookings. Subject limit?—none.
Galaxy bowling with my friends, Nikki, Lindsey, Jessica, Kristina, and Dallas. There is a bowling alley in Brookings and on the weekends, late night, they turn off the lights and turn on the disco ball. It was just a good time with good friends. I had many moments and memories like that–but the disco ball and colorful lights at Galaxy Bowling made it even better!
14. Since you know me pretty well ( I believe so), do you think I would like Bookings?
Yes, Juno, you would love it! Especially if I could be there to show you all the fun corners of the town. You’re a traveller and can appreciate what any place has to offer. I would love for you to come to South Dakota sometime. I’m your tourguide!
15. Do you miss Brookings?
Yes, very much. I especially miss my friends and family who are still there. I’ve been back several times since I graduated. Being away makes me appreciate it even more.
Camber Carpenter, an musical theatre performer, a writer and a traveler. Highly linguistic; if you give Camber a week and a podcast, she will speak the language fluently.
Camber can be described as simple, but great English words: fun, bright (as cheerful and as smart), and warm. Originally from Jacksonville, Illinois, and acting her way around the world. Recently spent few years in Hong Kong and Italy as a musical performer.
She writes at American as Wok and Eggroll.