Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Go West Young Man

While it was nice to be in DC, and to see all my old friends, I’m happy to have finally moved out to Denver. I didn’t really know much about Denver before I moved out here. I’d been to Boulder a few times, and I remembered that Colorado was very pretty, but I didn’t know much else. I got an apartment online, a risky proposition, but since I didn’t know anyone in Denver I had limited options. As soon as I got off the plane, I had to take a series of buses to the management company office to sign the lease and pick up my keys. Luckily, they were nice enough to give me a ride to the apartment so I didn’t have to take any more buses.

Denver has a pretty good public transportation system. It has a mix of buses that run on all the major streets and a light rail that is open very late. That being said, I’ve been surprised how much of a driving city Denver is. I guess it shouldn’t have been such a shock since the West is known for its sprawling cities. Still, I’ve been shocked how spread out it is compared to any city back east. I guess I’m just not in DC anymore.

My apartment is better than I had feared. It’s not that big, but I don’t need much room. It came unfurnished, though, which meant I’ve had to buy a ton of stuff. The apartment itself is nice if a little dated. The stove and counters look like they’re from the 70’s, and the shag carpet probably would have been pretty stylish then as well. I made so many trips to Target I think they now know me by name. Most of the larger furniture came from IKEA. I got quite a bit of stuff pretty cheap there including a couch. After I had all the necessary stuff, I turned to Amazon for the rest, since I didn’t need it immediately, and I was getting tired of carrying things all over the city.

The area around where I live is nice, and not surprisingly, very college focused. There are a ton of bars and restaurants that pretty clearly cater to students. The campus itself is beautiful. The buildings are red brick, and the style is a mix of southwest architecture and the more traditional look for a university. Many of the buildings are really nice and fairly new, so I wonder if the school came into a lot of money in the last 10 years.

The altitude is a lot higher in Colorado, but it’s not so high that you immediately notice the difference. The effect comes in things like getting dehydrated more quickly, since you breathe more when the air is thinner. I guess it might affect cooking a bit also, but I doubt that will be a huge problem for me.

Unfortunately, my wrist is still bothering me, which makes me doubly nervous with classes starting so soon. At least I’ll be back on a real health care plan in a few days. I tried to make my room as ergonomic as possible.

The weather has been good, but surprisingly hot. It’s drier than DC, but it has been in the mid 90s a number of times. I finally had to get a portable air conditioner so I could sleep. The weather is as sunny as they say, but there are also storms that seem to come out of nowhere. I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Good Ol’ US of A

It’s nice to be home. I’m finally back in the US after two straight years in China. It feels incredibly good to be home. My parents are still in China, and some renters in their house, so I’m staying with family friends. So far, it’s been incredibly hot in DC. I thought I had gotten used to the heat in Guangzhou, but I’m still suffering. I developed some heat rash on my legs. My wrist is also hurting more than it was a few weeks ago. Even with all this, it feels amazing to be home. I’ve been anticipating coming back for a while, but I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed the US until I finally got home.

People have been asking me what I missed most about the US, but I can’t quite answer the question because I have missed almost everything. The first day back, just walking down the street was a revelation. No one was pushing past me. The streets weren’t some sort of disgusting mess. No one tried to drive a car down the sidewalk. The weather, while blisteringly hot, was still amazing. Clouds not pollutions were in the sky, and no odd smells on the wind. It was so easy to go shopping since I didn’t have to work out what I was going to say beforehand.

It’s also been so much fun to see all my friends again. I’ve gone out to play bar trivia with Harry. I went to the old neighborhood standby, Cactus Cantina, with Andy. I went to a bar that specializes in incredibly fancy beer with Taylor. I saw Mike at his bartending job in Bethesda. I saw Jack and Matt at a birthday party for Harry’s girlfriend. For those who don’t know who these people are, they are all friends of mine since elementary school. I even saw Ken, who I taught with for two years in Changzhou. I’ve also had the chance to see a bunch of old family friends and neighbors. It’s been amazing. I’ve had so many people to see that I’ve eaten lunch and dinner out almost every day.

Even doing normal stuff, like going to CVS, is a treat. Their selection is amazing. They have real medicine, not the ground up twigs and sheep’s placenta I would find in China. Everything is so quick and well organized. The only downside is that compared to China everything here is amazingly expensive. I think I’ve already spent more money than I saved in my last two years in China. Still, being back is like being on permanent vacation from China. I loved being in China, but I didn’t realize how tired I was of the usual Chinese nonsense until I came back home.

One side effect of being thrilled by American efficiency and organization is that when something doesn’t work the way it should I find myself getting frustrated really quickly. I had a really hard time dealing with the people at the Verizon store, and by the time I was finished I was just spitting mad. After being in China for so long, and wanting relief from the insane way everything worked there, I just can’t stand to see my vision of a well run America contradicted. I think I’ll get on a more even keel over time. For now though, I just can’t stand to see the same, “well there’s nothing I can do about it,” excuse in America, that I was so sick of in China. Either way, though, it’s good to be home.