Maine, our beautiful state, has so much to offer, especially when you learn about it from those who have been here for a long time.

The end of May brought forth sunny days and warmth, and I decided to visit with some lifelong Mainer friends. In addition to lobster dinners, we had pancake breakfasts drenched in homemade maple syrup, and my hosts took almost an hour to explain how the syrup was made, including showing me picture books, from the sap flowing from the trees to the syrup itself.

Abdi Nor Iftin is a Somali-American writer, radio journalist and public speaker. He lives in Yarmouth and can be contacted at

A fellow Maine writer with a cozy cabin nestled deep within the woodland invited me to stay for a weekend. From the cabin’s windows, I gazed upon the serene beauty of Unity Lake, creating a sense of tranquility that embraced my soul. I thought, this is what every new Mainer should experience here.

I spent time with residents of Unity who have lived there for a significant period and possess extensive knowledge of the area. I heard how eager they are to explore diversity, hear different stories and share elements of their part of Maine that aren’t commonly seen in every town. I had the honor of visiting the new Unity Public Library, serving not only Unity but also Burnham, Troy, Thorndike, Freedom and Knox, all quintessential Maine towns. In a brief conversation with residents there I discovered that possums are effective in combating ticks, and the best time to catch a glimpse of Maine’s black bears is during the berry harvesting season. I took a note.

I was advised to try an Amish doughnut before I left Unity. I had only heard of the Amish community but had not come into contact with them before. Their delectable doughnuts were some of the best I have ever tasted. Not far from the Amish Community Market was the Ecology Learning Center, where I had the privilege of sharing some of my past stories with students who were all born and raised in Maine. Coincidentally, my visit overlapped with the return of students who had spent four days exploring the mountains and lakes of Maine on an expeditionary trip. I spoke with the 10th graders, one of whom asked me to share a word or phrase in my native language. The delight on their faces was heartwarming.

There were days in the past when I found it challenging to fully embrace Maine’s culture of outdoor exploration, appreciation for nature and its rich history. It was so unfamiliar to me. However, with time and through my friendships with longtime Mainers, I have acquired essential tools to navigate this remarkable state. Armed with a Maine map, an informative guidebook, binoculars, a comprehensive bird book detailing every avian visitor to Maine and bug spray, as well as instructions on how to steam a lobster, I now feel equipped to proudly call myself a Mainer.

You know you’re becoming a true Mainer when you can easily pick out the best place for a lobster dinner, and when you hike Cadillac Mountain at Acadia National Park and stroll around Eagle and Jordan ponds before the tourists swarm in, savoring the tranquility. (You also know you’re becoming a Mainer when you complain a bit about the crowd that is already building up around “Bah Habah.”)

While this Mainer thoroughly enjoys visiting various places and has been fortunate to make friends across the state, I also hope for a future where the small towns, grappling with declining populations, become more diverse and inclusive, welcoming people from different backgrounds, colors and languages.

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