Even after spending most of my life in Minnesota, I had never visited, and knew only two things about Rochester, MN. One, it is the home of the Mayo Clinic, and two, it is host to many many sports tournaments for kids. After living here a month, I can’t say I know much more. The town is rightfully nicknamed “Med City.” This is because the town basically is the Mayo Clinic.
This hospital is huge. I guess it is actually a few hospitals or something, but I don’t really get it. It is an internationally renowned facility that people travel to from all over the world for world class treatments. Because of this, the town center has a very unique character. The population of Roch is around 100,000, and the city center actually feels like a city. Surrounding the expansive hospital the area is packed with high-end shops, hotels and restaurants that cater to the wealthy international clientel of Mayo. We are talkin’ European import kitchenware shops selling $20 teabags, and fancy chocolate shops with real Italian gelato.
Joe and I love to eat out, and I bet we have been 90% of the restaurants in town. This is always a cool experience as every time we seem to sit next to a family speaking a different language. We hear French, Italian, Arabic, Croatian (ok, I’m guessing on that one), etc. I love it, I can’t get enough of it. It is like having my own little trip abroad while living in this typical, big-box-store-filled, mid sized Minnesota town. When I really need to soak up the feeling, I head downtown. I park my frozen car in the garage next to Wells Fargo and head into the skyways and subways that save to people of Rochester and visitors to Mayo from the frigid Minnesota Winter. My first stop is the most beautiful and surprising Barnes and Noble in the world.
Can you believe that place?! It is an old theater transformed into this sort of Harry Potter-esque bookstore. It is magical, I could wander there for hours. Just past the bookstore is the Galleria shopping center. This is where you can find the gelato. This is also where I am reminded that the reason for Rochester and the fancy Galleria and the gelato is Mayo. And, the reason for Mayo is sick people. Walking through this area I see people from all over the world wheeling their loved ones with cancer, or a brain injury, or some rare GI disorder through the shops. I am also reminded that Mayo is not just for rich Saudi Sheiks, but also for regular folks.
The conversations I hear at this mall are very different than what’s heard at any other mall. I hear more “How are you doing?” and “Don’t worry, we will be there for you no matter the results,” than “Should I buy this $20 teabag.” The place is bright and warm in the Minnesota winter, but it has an air of sadness that is inescapable. I know that for so many people there, this short wheelchair ride through the skyways is the furthest they will get from their hospital room for a while. Maybe that is why I love this place. I know it sounds a little messed up, but come on, I’m going to be a nurse. I actually find the sadness of this place to be inspiring. It means that there is room for me to make a difference. Who, knows maybe in a year I will be one of these lucky ladies…..
(Mayo nurses eating lunch in the Galleria)