While I wouldn’t even consider a parallel with the legendary Alistair Cooke and his BBC Radio 4 Letter From America series, I am in America, I haven’t migrated, and as a new experience and adventure for us all it feels time for a brief update on our move to Texas.
They arrived as planned, as scheduled, on time after a very long time apart we are finally back in a family unit, although a little thinned out with our other 2 direct members far and wide. Along with Lindsay and the kids came the dog, Archie. From rabies-free Australia he was able to travel on the same flight without quarantine and arrived with Jet Pet in the most expensive dog pod I, or he, has ever owned! He was pretty pleased to see us when we drove round to Freight to collect him, thought his tail was gonna wag right off!
Within a couple of weeks we had sorted out some basics for the bedrooms; air mattresses are only good for overnight stays right?
Our community has a well presented pool for our use and that became a regular hang out as summer got hold of north Texas.
Then we began the task of enrolling the kids in the local schools, middle for Ted and Scarlett in 8th and 7th grade and elementary for Lottie in 5th grade. That presented a few challenges with paperwork, vaccination records and the expected red-tape. The back-to-school nights were chaotic frantic affairs with hundreds of kids and parents wandering around the school rooms and halls but we made it to first day.
School is proving to be a good little stretch, not just for the kids but for us all; for them it’s both for sport and fitness as well as academically; for us it’s keeping our sanity as we dig through time ravaged memory banks to remember dividing fractions, equations, and the awful journey into the mind-bending world of algebra. Thank heavens for YouTube tutorials and wine! Goodness knows what they weren’t being taught in Oz because we’ve spent the last few weeks every evening until late going through maths homework; fractions, decimals, improper, proper, negative numbers, composites… and so on.
I see a very old school system of learning developing here with much repetitive practice of calculations, all working to be shown, and, unusually in this world of PC, wrong ones marked wrong, in red, but with time spent working out why.
Not something we saw in the school curriculum at home. That’s not to say it wasn’t getting taught, I’m sure some schools it was, maybe we never saw it.
And they’re all very up to date on technology here, with online access portals for us to view all the kids work, class, homework and projects, almost as they are finishing it.
The home is coming together after having to sell a lot of furniture so as not to have to pay to ship it, we are slowly putting things back in place.
And of course there’s Texas. Texas plods on, its nodding iron donkeys pumping crude out of the ground irrespective of what we think or do. Its weather is still very hot; a slight let up with some rain and cooler temps coming but it definitely has the jump on Sydney for the heat. People spent August dodging from air conditioned cars to their homes, their offices and into shops for the cool again. Locals park in a car park and prefer a 100 yard walk to the shop door over a parking place right outside because they found the tree to park under! And when I say hot I mean hot. Fahrenheit is the preferred choice of confusion over here and we probably haven’t seen a daytime temperature below 90F (32C) since early June and for most of August, 40-odd days straight, it never dipped below 100F (38C) during the day and 80F at night. The temperature in your parked car that wasn’t under a tree was easily 120F! So it’s hot alright.
They continue to drive at whatever speed they want to. It seems the norm is to drive at about 5-10mph over the posted speed everywhere, but you will still be passed by many cars anyway.
Our second nectar of life, gasoline is now at a heady $1.95 for a yank gallon and even though that comes up short of a real gallon by half a litre, it’s still a nice feeling standing there with the fuel hose glugging away into the 28 gallon tank of the Chev and seeing the bill top out around 55 bucks!
Even nicer when you plant the throttle and hear the huge ol’ V8 chug back the unleaded without worrying about it!
But the horror of drivers and mobile phones is along every mile and at every intersection as it reaches plague proportions here. I’m not kidding when I say that every 4th car might contain someone who is NOT on their phone, whether texting, calling, browsing or just playing with the damn things there are some very scary moments to be avoided. There are no fines for it, and it is currently not against the law in Texas to use one while driving as long as you are over 18, not a school bus driver, not in a school zone and not on a learner permit!
San Antonio and Austin have however introduced 500 and 200 dollar fines for using them while driving so perhaps the other big cities will follow. One can only hope so.
Some of the habits and trends I don’t have a problem with and the general “go about your business your way, so long as no-one gets uptight about it” is fine with me, (except for phone use while driving!) I quite like it with everything else in fact.
And what about guns I hear you cry? What indeed? The argument for and against will rage on long after I’m not here, I don’t have one, nor particularly want one. I do love the engineering and beautiful craftsmanship that goes into making them. If I stay here a very long time I might take up recreational shooting at targets and beer cans at my mate’s hunting lease whereupon any gun I might own would stay locked in his safe. To be able to safely and expertly handle firearms can only be a good thing, I have no desire to ever go and shoot animals to kill them for trophies, but I might assist in obtaining some freezer stock. Deer and boar are quite tasty…
And then there’s the beer. Maybe Texas isn’t famous for beer, the US certainly has a reputation in some parts of the world for watery, too cold, fizzy stuff that’s only good for a refreshing headache but that’s Miller Lite. There is a brewery in Shiner Texas, started by a German migrant that produces a fine range of beers. Long may they continue. And a 12 pack should only rush you a bit over 10 bucks. If I were to make a comparison with Australia’s best offerings… well I won’t alright.
And of course America is making global headlines with its race for a new president next year. The range of characters is wide and varied, if not widely interesting, the options for those who have to vote are quite worrying and I’m sure you’ve heard of America’s very own Clive Palmer, Mr. Donald Trump. Says what he means, or what people are thinking, speaks the truth (really?) and only wants what’s best for the people and the country – sound familiar? – He has a lot of followers.
But then so does Hilary Clinton, although perhaps Jeb Bush might be struggling. The thought of a third Bush in charge of the USS Nimitz (and the one named after his dad!) is just too scary for even for the most die-hard supporters. It remains to be seen who will end up in the actual race to the Whitehouse.
September has seen the 14th memorial service to honour and remember those lost in the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon back in 2001. I remember it as though it were yesterday watching the whole thing unfold live on the internet from my office in Vienna…
Ted has made the football team for his school, not soccer this year but football. We watched his first scrimmage the other night at a local stadium and it looked impressive. All the 6:15 am training sessions are paying off, he’s gone from the B team as a cornerback to the A-team for a full game and enjoying every minute. Football in America is big, probably bigger than anything, anywhere in any other part of the world. Even the coaches for college football are on handsome salaries for a year, it’s huge.
Scarlett meanwhile is aiming for the basketball team and we managed to score a real tidy hoop from the local internet garage sale that stands in the street outside the house for practice.
And Lottie is keen to explore some gymnastics but currently more intent on getting her hands on Henry, who you will be wondering about for a while to come…
There hasn’t been another road trip to really sample more of America but we’re working on it…