Monday, April 7, 2014

It’s not all roses here (there are bluebonnets too)


Our apartment is very beige. In fact, it’s the beigest (oh hey, look at that, it’s actually a word!) place I’ve ever been in. It’s like the interior designer thought, Hmm…what’s the most neutral and least offensive palate that would appease everyone? I know, beige! So let’s paint the wall beige, make the counters beige, the fireplace beige, the carpet, couch, bed linens, decor…you get the picture. It’s a lot of beige. With brown accents. Really?!

This apartment is also half the size of our previous place in Chicago. And because we chose a furnished apartment while our things went into storage in the house-hunting process, I am also realizing “furnished” means aesthetically, it looks like a (very beige) home, but utility wise, it’s not quite there. I mean, the only pan that comes with this place is eight inches wide, and when I bought some greens (“yu choy”) from the Chinese grocery store to stir fry for dinner, I had to cook it in three batches. That’s how useless an eight-inch pan is for a family of four.

With our kitchen things buried deep in the crevices of our storage, I rather imagine there won’t be any real baking or serious cooking in our near future.  But hey, we can make some killer omelets. One at a time. Yaaaaaaaaaaay…

And the roads here in Austin—or maybe Texas in general—what is up with the 14-lane highways, the six lanes (three to turn, three to go straight) on a frontage road, and the mega-high highways everywhere we go?

I’m not quite sure if it’s a complaint yet. I like that it cuts our travel time considerably, because now, nothing is more than 20 minutes from us, unlike Chitown, when seeing a dear friend across town meant at least a 45-minute commute in our car, and they’re not even in the suburbs.

But express travel also means we’re constantly going on and off a major highway here, which feels so impersonal to me. It’s as if the destination is more important than the journey itself, but guys, it’s really pretty here. The hills. The greenery. The winding streets. Why aren’t we taking our time through them?

photo 1 (52)The view from my street. See what I mean?

But perhaps that’s just the tourist in me talking. I suppose once I cross over to the more resident side of things, the cussing, honking city driver in me will probably appreciate the highways when I realize everyone on these side streets Are. Taking. Forever.

And this whole Lone Star State thing? Wow. I know Texas used to be its own nation once upon a time, but residents here seem to have that etched in their collective memory. And their bones. I’ve never seen so much state pride, evident in a gazillion variations of the Lone Star or the shape of the state in street signs, houses, yards, cars, buildings, tee-shirts, onesies, you name it. It’s almost funny to me, except I also admire it a little. When you find yourself in the middle of a culture that’s so confident, so sure of itself, it’s hard not to feel like you want to belong, which stirs up some odd emotions. Didn’t I, not too long ago, just think that I could never live in Texas? I mean, come on, could y’all really picture me in cowboy boots?

As I try to assess my feelings about this place, we’ve experienced our first hailstorm, which I was told was common in this region, we’ve had nearly 90-degree days in early spring (no, I’m not bragging, my frozen Chicago friends; it’s just not something I’m used to, and if it’s nearly 90 and toasty now, summer is absolutely going to fry us!), and we’re slooooooowly meeting new people but our network here is still somewhat non-existent.

Granted, it’s only been two weeks, but we’re people people. I may be an introvert who doesn’t socialize much, but I like the option of having a friend with whom I can go out for drinks if my week feels long. Without that, even the second largest state in the country feels a little claustrophobic.

So yeah, it’s not all peaches and roses (or the ubiquitous and lovely springtime favorite, bluebonnets, here) in Austin. We’re wading through culture shock, although shock is a strong word—culture surprises?—and  we’re coming to terms with the fact that this isn’t a vacation.

It’s different here, yes, but we’re doing just fine. It helps that we love exploring, we love being together, and we love that we are here.

The fact that our apartment is minimal in space and stuff is actually working well because we have a greater appreciation for what we do have. I am actually liking the minimalist living. The smaller square footage doesn’t bother the girls—they never really played in the lower level of our old two-level apartment anyway because they liked being around us, and now that we only have this one floor, they make do. We make do.

They play their pretend games on their own as long as I’m in their periphery, and without the access to their truckload of toys, they learn to enjoy the handful that we did bring here. They’ve also developed a passion for coloring, allowing me to organize, cook or even work on my computer, while they happily coexist with a “My Little Pony” or “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” coloring book each and a bag of crayons between them. 

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It’s a strange new world out here. In a good way.

As for the beige and brown, we brought our more brightly colored throws from storage to brighten the place; I added pretty pink and purple flowers to decorate, and unwilling to go another day with a drab brown comforter in our room, I splurged on a white and grey one, as well as a bright teal blanket to go with it. Ahhh… Color… Life!

The girls, on the other hand, need no brightening. They wake up cheery every morning, ready to take on the world. It’s amazing how well they’re adjusting, with barely a hint of homesickness, and when they do talk about our old friends and city, it’s only in fond recollection. They just started their new preschool three days a week at the Asian-American Cultural Center, and they’ve so far had eggrolls, yoga, and Kung Fu. Little Miss is also practicing her numbers—in Chinese. I joke that they’ll soon be more Asian than I am, but I fervently hope they keep at it. The school is certainly doing a better job than I am in teaching them about their own culture, and thankfully, they look forward to it everyday. 


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With the girls in school, I am back to my regular part-time work schedule at home, with the balcony as my office. My Guy’s work, a coworking space that he rents so he can connect with local entrepreneurs and free agents like him, is about five minutes from our house. More often than not, I get to see him in the middle of the day when he comes home for lunch. It’s a far cry from our situation in Chicago when he had to travel over an hour one way just to get to his client, and he had to do that three to five miserable times a week. Now, I would text him and let him know the girls are done with naptime, and he’d show up within minutes to hang out with us for the rest of the evening.

It’s pretty sweet.

Yes, there are a lot of changes around us, and they’re mostly good. Like when we walked into a car dealership one day and walked out with a new Subaru Forester. I blame the margaritas we had for dinner, but it’s a Motor Trend 2014 SUV of the Year, and we are car people who like our car peppy, so when this came with a turbo-charged engine, we couldn’t resist. The girls screamed gleefully at the sunroof as we pulled out of the dealership, and when we merged into traffic, I thought, holy shit, what the hell did we just do? As if we didn’t have enough change in our lives.

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But this car is so fun to drive, I simply had to let it go.

I’m hoping that finally arriving at a routine with the preschool and workspace would settle things down for us. Except My Guy will be in Chicago for five days this week while I manage things on my own with the girls. So much for being settled. In fact, I’m panicking a bit, looking for the nearest exit.

It’s going to be interesting for sure. But then again, things have been interesting the moment we decided to leave Chicago, so why stop now?