Moving to Texas

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Derek and I are moving to Houston, Texas. This blog will be a way for friends and family to see what we are up to.

Derek will pursue a MFA in Studio Art – with a concentration of graphic design at the  University of Houston. It is a three year program. While he is in school, I will work. I do not have a job yet, but time will tell. (Update: I am a paginator (page design) and reporter for Houston Community Newspapers.)

It will be an adventure, and culture shock for sure. We are moving from Wellsboro, which has a population of about 3,300, to Houston, the fourth largest city in the U.S., population 2.1 million.

One year later – an editorial

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One year ago today, we pulled out of our driveway in Wellsboro, and started the 1,600 mile drive to Houston. I wrote an editorial for the Houston Chronicle about the last year and how Houston is different from Wellsboro.

I have included the link, and a copy/paste version of the text below.

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/gray-matters/article/To-Houston-from-Wellsboro-Pa-population-3-326-11526896.php

 

I’ve discovered the wonder that is Buc-ees. I’ve photographed bluebonnets in spring, and I’ve eaten my way through multiple flavors of Blue Bell.

Since moving to Houston last August, I realized that everything truly is bigger in Texas (except for our one-bedroom apartment.) I moved from Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, home of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, population 3,326.

We moved because my husband is pursuing a graduate degree at the University of Houston. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the amount of students at the university (more than 40,000) is around the same amount of people in our rural county.

Coming here has been like living in a completely different world. There are so many city-related things that are a part of anyone’s day that I would have never given a second thought before.

For one thing: Traffic reports. They’re on the news every morning! The only traffic I had to worry about was the occasional bear and deer running across the road. I would sometimes get stuck behind a truck going 40 miles per hour, but here I realize that you’re lucky to be going that fast any given day on 610.

I’d much rather stay home than try to battle other drivers if it’s more than a 10-mile drive, a far cry from being used to driving hours all over the northeast.

And the noise. Not only the noise of the 10 or so lanes of traffic right outside our door, but the sounds of planes and helicopters constantly overhead. I had not seen an airplane overhead in the 10 years I was in Pennsylvania. My husband constantly has to repeat himself if he talks to me outside our apartment, because I cannot hear him over the rows and rows of air conditioners that are consistently running.

The loudest thing I have ever heard, without a doubt, was the fighter jet flyover during the Super Bowl. We live close to NRG, and it rattled the whole place. The cats ran under the bed.

And the many options … for, well, everything. How do Houstonians even choose? Where to go, what to do, what to eat, where to shop? It’s all mind-boggling at times. We visited more stores in the first week of being in Houston than in years of living in Wellsboro. The first time I went grocery shopping, I had an anxiety attack.

It’s the worst with restaurants. There are so many options here for each cuisine, and a lot of it’s unfamiliar territory for us.

I remember trying crawfish for the first time. I am a picky eater, and I kept finding excuses not to try it.

But it was the season, and I found a restaurant hosting a crawfish special for $7 a pound on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, perfect for my work schedule — and my frugality.

My husband and I tried to prepare ourselves in advance by watching YouTube videos on how to open them, but they left us more puzzled. You really have to suck the fat out of the heads?

But we got there, and the platters were put in front of us. We asked our waiter for good measure how to open and eat them, but he just chuckled and walked away.

We eventually figured it out after consulting the internet once again on our phones. The crawfish, along with the corn on the cob and potatoes, were excellent, but my lips were burning so badly by the spices that I was crying at the table.

I do miss Pennsylvania, at least some of it. I miss homemade maple syrup, and I miss the mountains, especially in the fall with the bright foliage. I miss making trips to the Mennonite general store.

But I feel like Texas, with all of its hustle and bustle, is where I am meant to be.

Downtown underground tunnels

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Did you know that Houston has underground tunnels connecting all of the major buildings downtown? We didn’t know until recently, when I came across it online.

If you ever think that downtown is a bit empty during lunch time, there is a reason for that. Everyone is just below you! I expect a lot of people use the tunnels for relief from the summer heat.

It is like a little city underneath the city with multiple entrance points. There are over six miles of tunnels. We entered through one of the towers; there was an escalator going down right in the main lobby.

The tunnels are a large maze of sorts, with lots of long twisting and turning hallways, but there are maps every so often so you know where you are.

The tunnels are a mixture of shops, restaurants and food courts. Derek commented that it almost had an airport terminal feel. Most of the shops were errand related, like dry cleaners, banks and pharmacies. A one stop shop for workers on their lunch break. In fact, Derek’s bank had an office down there, so we stopped in and we were able to get a card for me for his account. It was something we had been meaning to do.

We had really good Chinese food at Dumpling House in one of the food courts. It was cheap too, can’t beat that. Funny because the Chinese food restaurant back in Wellsboro is called Dumpling House too.

It was interesting to explore a whole new level of the city. We will probably venture down there again, because there were a lot of good looking places to eat.

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Hermann Park train

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One day last week Derek said to me, “I’m bored, let’s go somewhere for lunch.” I suggested the Pinewood Cafe in Hermann Park, right next to McGovern Lake. After a nice lunch, neither of us were ready to go home.

Derek started walking towards the train station/gift shop. At first I thought we were just going to browse inside the shop, but then he bought two tickets for the train ride.

The train ride is something I wanted to do since we first came to Hermann Park the first week we moved here. I am so glad that we did it. We were the only adults without kids on the train but that situation is nothing new for the two of us.

Tickets are $3.50 each for a 20ish minute ride. The ride is quite scenic, going through and around the whole park. It was nice to catch the breeze on a hot day. There is also running commentary for points of interest.

Now that I’ve been on it once, I’ll definitely go on it again. I know my parents will love it.

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Museum of Natural Sciences

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We went to the Museum of Natural Sciences a few months ago but I’m only getting around to writing about it now.

We had been to the MoNS in Washington D.C., which is rightfully huge, so we weren’t sure what to expect here, but they had a lot of great displays.

Some of my favorite areas included the Cabinet of Curiosities, which just had a bunch of random stuff everywhere and in drawers that were free to open and look into, the ancient Egypt section, and the dinosaur bones (which I think there were actually more of than in D.C.!) There was also a Texas animals section, which was interesting, and of course I loved the gem and mineral section. No Hope Diamond here, but still all amazing to look at.

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Kemah Boardwalk

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Kemah Boardwalk is about 35 minutes away from us on the bay of Galveston. Kemah Boardwalk was something I knew I wanted to do over the summer. When The Bull country radio station announced a Wednesday night country concert series, I knew that would be the perfect time to go.

We arrived around dinner time and ate at Bubba Gump Shrimp, a place I have always wanted to go to. There are plenty of other restaurants there too.

In hindsight we probably should have done some of the rides or maybe gone to the onsite small aquarium attached to one of the restaurants. I am not a big ride person, but there were some small ones that would have been doable like the carousel or the train ride.  Once we ate and circled around the boardwalk twice, there wasn’t much for us to do. There were a few shops that we looked in that wasted a few minutes. It was nice to look out over the water though and see the boats coming in and out of the marina. We were lucky to see a double rainbow form after a small drizzle.

We would have left sooner if not for the concert being at a specific time. It did not help that the concert started a half hour late! The artist was Chris Lane. We were not familiar with him, but it was nice to stay and listen to a few songs before heading back home.

I think Kemah Boardwalk is a great place to go if you’re a family or if you really like rides. Most of them I wouldn’t have gone on, like the roller coasters and the rides that swing back and forth. No thank you! But it is also nice for a couple to go out to a nice dinner, walk around and get some fresh air. (Mind the mosquitoes since you’re near the water! We both got a few bites.)

Some photos:

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Houston Astros

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I won’t lie and tell you I am a baseball fan, but when in Houston, you go to a Houston Astros game.

We attended an Astros vs. Texas Rangers game a few weeks ago. We got the cheap nosebleed seats for $14 each, but we had a great view from above.

To be honest, I was there more to see the stadium’s train than to see the Astros. Minute Maid Park’s main lobby is Houston’s old Union Station. So inside, there is a small scale train that runs along side the stadium walls at the beginning of every game, plus when the Astros score home runs and at the end if they win a game.

That is not to say that the game wasn’t interesting though. It was definitely different to be at a sporting event that was NOT football.

I suppose everyone who likes baseball already knows this, but the game was SO long. The first two innings went by quickly, but then the third inning dragged on longer than the first two combined. It seemed like the players were just standing around wasting time!

We left at the beginning of the sixth inning because it was getting late, and a lot of people had left before that. At that point the Astros were winning 4-1, but of course they scored 9 points in the sixth inning!!!! Oh well. They ended up winning 13-2.

Supposedly the Astros are the best time in baseball right now. I just may have to become a “bandwagon” fan if they get into the playoffs!

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Sculptures and houses

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We went to Galveston for the day last week. In the morning we did a walking tour of tree sculptures in the East End Historic District

In 2008, Hurricane Ike made landfall at Galveston, and caused a lot of damage. Many trees were uprooted due to the tidal surge, but may more died later on due to being in salty water.

Instead of removing these salt-damaged trees completely, three artists, Earl Jones, Dale Lewis and Jim Phillips turned many of these into sculptures. The carvings are in people’s front yards, but anyone is welcome to stop on by and have a look.

We used a map that was in a brochure for the sculptures. We both severely underestimated how hot it would be at 9 a.m., and how long the walk would take. It took about two and a half hours. I would recommend it to anyone, but perhaps do it in a car, a bike, or walk it during a cooler time. We did come across the Mosquito Cafe about halfway through our walk, which was a nice little break.

A bonus from the sculpture walking tour is that you pass many beautiful, historic homes.

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