Leaving Montreal was bittersweet. After all, I spent 12 years there (and the Engineer, his whole life). It is still my favourite city in the world, and the place that feels most like home. That being said, we’ve got a great life ahead of us in San Antonio, which is a beautiful city too. And there were certain things that made it easier to leave Montreal. Like the fact that the mountain won’t be as accessible as before. Like the fact that our neighbourhood was hosting constructionfest for the foreseeable future. Like the fact that our bus route was altered consequently in a way that makes it less convenient, and no one knows whether this is permanent. The accordion buses were a nice touch, though, as was the (incredibly) long-awaited Bus 747 - on the bright side, we can make use of that one next time we fly in. My point is that things were starting to change anyway, and that made the transition easier.
At first, we didn’t know quite where we would end up. There was talk of Alberta, Pennsylvania, California and New York State, including New York City. While the culture and climate of those places seemed close to that of Montreal (or at least, closer than that Texas), I did have reservations about New York City, especially after doing some research. This website shows the average income of residents in the various neighbourhoods of the city, along with how much it costs to rent a 1-bedroom, 2-bedroom or 3-bedroom apartment. (This, of course, when what we really wanted was to own a house with a yard.) I was convinced we would only be able to afford the smallest apartment in New York City! Luckily, we ended up someplace much more affordable.
Texas is a big change culturally, sure, but all the stereotypes you might have don’t necessarily hold true (at least not in a metropolitan center that voted for Obama). Our dog’s name, Darwin, has yet to cause anything but smiles on the face of those who hear it. (Well, there was the one woman in the housedress who obstinately called him Charlie, but maybe that’s short for Charles Darwin, so I’m not jumping to conclusions, even though she’s been avoiding us since then.)The climate is much warmer – some would say nicer, especially since this summer hasn’t been as hot as the previous ones. But even though I’ll enjoy the mild winters, I’ll miss leaves turning red and making snowmen. Taxes here are much lower than in Quebec, and Texas doesn’t have a state income tax, but any savings we make that way will be immediately sucked into paying for healthcare and medical insurance. The cost of life is relatively low. There are stores like Whole Foods, Petco and The Container Store ; I’m pretty much giddy from the moment I step in there until I have to leave.
Even grocery stores are different. There is just so much more choice in the States than in Canada! On the downside, some products are different (like the Nesquik mix for chocolate milk, which has a different recipe here than in Canada – next time we’re having family come visit us, I’ll ask that they bring me a big old container of Canadian Nesquik with reduced sugar and added vitamins and minerals; the American version just isn’t doing it for me). And you know how we’re used to grocery stores having impulse items like candy bars and trashy magazines near the cash registers? Here, the impulse items are whole roasted chickens and gourmet foodie magazines! Servings are also big in Texas; if you go to the movies and buy a small soda, they’ll give you what is basically a bucket with a straw. Most fast-food restaurants give you free refills on drinks, too. And when you want something supersized, down here, it’s actually called “Texas-sized”. Great. I bought cotton balls, and there were two sizes available: super jumbo and triple-sized. Where are the regular-sized anything?
The wildlife is also quite different, especially the bugs. Basically, everything is bigger and everything is venomous. We’ve been warned about spiders like the black widow and the brown recluse (both potentially deadly), as well as scorpions. We saw the biggest daddy-long-legs we’d ever seen. There are big black crickets that seem to infiltrate every store in town and die on the premises. And we also had a huge cockroach (about 2 inches long). I’d seen big roaches in my day, bigger than 2 inches even, but mostly in Asia and places with tropical climates. I somehow thought that with my feet firmly in the northern part of the American continent, that was behind me – but no. As it turns out, Texas has the perfect climate for those Texas-sized beasts. I hope I don’t encounter any more (with one sighting in two months in a rental apartment, there’s a chance that was the only one I’ll see, but still). The Engineer saw a Texas spiny lizard on two occasions, but all I’ve seen are frogs (perhaps they’re toads, actually). Oh, and one teeny tiny green gecko. We’re getting used to turtledoves, but the grackles still retain that novelty factor. There are also birds of prey which we mistook for falcons or hawks at first, since those are the ones we’re used to. But we saw some up close, including one perched on top of a telephone pole outside town: they’re vultures. Like in Lucky Luke! Actual big ole vultures!
Up next: pictures from specific aisles at HEB , by special request. :)