One year later – an editorial

Standard

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.

Advertisements

Differences part 3

Standard

I thought it was about time to write another “differences” post seeing as my list of observations is getting long again. So here we go, differences between Texas and Pennsylvania, part 3:

The local wildlife:

We have lizards, cockroaches and cicadas here. The first time a lizard darted out in front of my path I freaked out. Now I think they are cute. They are tiny, maybe a few inches long. They vary from brown to green. The cicadas are SO LOUD. The first time I heard them making an awful rackett I had no clue it was a bug. My first thought was that the noise was some kind of weird sounding tool, like a buzz saw. They have quieted down now that it is fall though. Our first week here, we saw a very large cockroach walking on the sidewalk. They really are ugly bugs! We expected cockroaches in the apartment based on reviews, and we did have a few tiny ones in the first few weeks, but again, we probably aren’t seeing them now that it is “cooling down.” Which, in Texas speak, means highs in the mid 80s!

Traffic reports:

One morning while watching the news and checking Twitter, I realized how odd it is to get the traffic reports every day! Our idea of a traffic jam in Wellsboro was getting stuck behind a tractor or a gas industry truck. In Houston, you really need to pay attention though before you get ready to go somewhere. Some days it could take you 20 min to get to work, but an accident could easily double or triple that! And, even though it really is impossible if you have a typical 9-5 job, you have to try to avoid rush hour traffic like the plague. No such thing as rush hour traffic in Wellsboro.

Southern chain stores:

When we were still in Pennsylvania, I wondered what chain stores we would see in Texas. In Pennsylvania, grocery stores like TOPS and Weis were the norm. Here in Texas, it is Kroger, Fiesta Mart and HEB. Tioga County was so small that we just had national food chains, such as Taco Bell, KFC and Wendys. But here, in additional to the nation wide ones, there are chains I had never even heard of like Fuddruckers and Whataburger. (Whataburger’s rootbeer milkshakes are so good!) In the north, Dunkin Donuts reigns supreme. Down here, it is Shipley’s Donuts. Sonic is also big here. I had heard of Sonic before, but I had never been to one before now. I still think that the drive-in concept is weird, but hey, whatever works!

Central time:

It is one thing to remember the one hour time difference when calling and texting friends and family back home, but it is entirely different when all of your fall shows come back on. I watch Survivor, and for the last 15 years or so, it has been engraved in my brain that it comes on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. So the Wednesday that it premiered, I almost missed the show! It was about 6:55 p.m. when I had a light bulb go off in my head and I remembered TIME DIFFERENCE! Then a few days later, I did the exact same thing with another show. Whoops. I do like that the shows are on earlier though. This is awesome for football games. I can now make it to the end of a Monday night football game instead of going to bed at 10 p.m. during half time.

Cold water:

Who would have thought something as simple as cold water would be a luxury? Here our cold water is cool at best, and sometimes just downright warm.  We now get into the habit of using our britta filter as a pitcher to keep some drinking water cold at all times. We never used to use ice cubes, and now we always make sure the tray is full. Hot water is, of course, not a problem. The hot water is scalding, and it gets hot quickly. We have to remember to turn it down before we burn ourselves.

 

 

Differences between TX and PA

Standard

Derek and I have been taking note of some of the differences we have noticed between living in a city – and in Texas in general –  and living in rural Pennsylvania. Here are some of the ones we’ve come up with so far:

Roads:
A major difference is the roads. First of all, the majority of them are concrete. They are loud, and when it is raining out, they reflect in such a way that makes it hard to see the road! Not to mention the cracks in the concrete. Texas’ concrete cracks are akin to Pennsylvania potholes after a bad winter! Trying to learn the rules of the road, we quickly learned that there are no rules to the road. Some u-turns have their own lanes, some have a yield sign. Some exits are the “left two lanes” or the “right two lanes” and some are just one lane. Roads will go down from 4 to 3 lanes fairly quickly, and the same goes for 3 up to 4 lanes too. You have to pay very close attention! On the way to the University of Houston, there is one section where you literally have to keep right, then keep left, and then keep right all to get onto one road towards an exit! I am sure we will get used to it eventually, but thank goodness for GPS for now. Also, there are so many intersections that not all of them are named! When I am driving to the Target, I have to remember to “turn on the street after McNee,” because the street after McNee isn’t named!

The radio:
I thought I would be so happy having a ton of radio stations to choose from. Back in Wellsboro, there were only three to four stations to choose from, and I didn’t like the music on two of them. You were S-O-L most of the time when bouncing around from station to station. Plus, when you did find something you liked, it didn’t last very long, reception wise. Now we’ve got too many stations to choose from. Half of them aren’t in English! It took two weeks worth of driving around to find a country station that I liked, which was unexpectedly overwhelming. And to my surprise, the station lasted the entire hour drive to Galveston. We have a winner!

Stores:
We were joking around saying that we had been to more stores in two weeks than we had in the seven years that we were in Pennsylvania. Not too far from the truth! There are SO MANY stores/shopping plazas. We found one plaza about three miles from our apartment, and it is like a gold mine. So many good stores, I may not need to step foot into a mall once. Not to mention how HUGE the stores are. We had only been here about two to three days, and we went into a Kroger (the local grocery store) and the super target in one day. That was enough for us to realize that we definitely weren’t in a rural area anymore! The Kroger was at least double the size of our grocery store back in Wellsboro. We also went to a Lowes, and then it was my dad’s time to gasp at the sheer size of the store.

Grocery stores:
Diving a bit further into stores now, specifically, grocery shopping. We soon discovered that there were about five or six grocery stores to choose from. The Kroger we soon found out was a bit on the expensive side (bear in mind we are used to non-city prices) so then I started panicking over the circulars that came in the mail for the different grocery stores. Was I really going to have to shop at each one before we found a good fit???? We decided to start with the super target, since it is the closest to the apartment. That ended up being a good decision, for the most part. The craziest thing I have gotten anxiety over while being here is the meat department. Usually I buy ground beef in various sizes. Some dishes I make require a bit over a pound, and some a little under. Here in stores (both in the Kroger and the Target) they only come in one size only – one pound. Plus, the meat is just TOO EXPENSIVE overall. So then we went over to Fiesta Mart (another grocery store) which is branded as being an inexpensive option. There the meat selection was more what I was used to seeing in Wellsboro. So, I may have to go to two separate grocery stores to get what I want, but at least we got that sorted out fairly quickly. The Fiesta Mart in itself was amazing. There was a whole international foods section. Some day I just want to go and browse it all. The strangest thing we saw there was cactus pads in the produce aisle!

Weather:
The weather here is unreal. In the last three weeks, I feel like maybe only two days have gone by where there hasn’t been a thunderstorm. And the storms are BAD. Just today the lightning and thunder lasted at least an hour. When it rains, it POURS. I am glad that we live on the second floor. I am surprised we haven’t needed a boat yet. With all this moisture in the air, the humidity is unreal. Humidity doesn’t necessarily bother me, but no denying it is there when you go outside and our glasses immediately fog up!

Texas, Texas, Texas:
People in Texas are proud that they are from Texas! Texas flags everywhere, everyone wears Texas themed shirts, Texas bumper stickers, etc. Grocery store aisles have rows and rows of “made in Texas” salsa, and Texas beef (way more expensive than the already expensive meat I mentioned previously.) When we were in Galveston for the day, nearly everyone had a tent or chairs that was branded with some sort of Texas school or sport team. I just can’t recall seeing so much “Pennsylvania” branded items. Maybe the maple syrup? But I think that is less obvious.  “Made in Pennsylvania” is one thing, but having a huge Texas flag label with cowboys, horses, long horns, armadillos, etc, is another! In Buc-ees and in the campus book store, there were Texas themed cookware. I’ll admit I “oohed” at the Texas shaped cutting board, but does anyone actually buy and use these things? Maybe it is more of a novelty, for the people visiting Texas, instead of the people who live here.

That is all of the differences I can think of for now, but I am sure there will be more as time goes on!

1600 miles

Standard

The trip from Wellsboro to Houston will take 1600 miles, give or take a few.

This is the route we are taking:

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 5.13.40 PM

The route shows our planned stopovers each night in Harrisonburg, Virginia and Picayune, Mississippi.

We are leaving Wellsboro on Friday, but at what time remains to be unseen. My dad will arrive early on Friday morning with the UHaul trailer, and we will leave whenever everything is loaded.

We will try to get a decent night’s sleep on Friday night in Harrisonburg, because Saturday is going to be one heck of a long drive – about 900 miles total. Once we’re in Picayune, it’s only five and a half hours left for Sunday morning.

Stay tuned for pictures along the drive!

Moving to Texas

Standard

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.