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Strangers in Strange Land

Two months have passed since I last updated my blog.

Quite a lot has happened in that time. We looked for a house, found one, bought it, and moved in. This is a momentous occasion; we really are here to stay.

There is so much choice in Plano and the surrounding areas it is just unreal. Plano, which at the moment consistently comes top of the Best Places to Live in western US, offers absolutely unbelievable value for money. We eschewed the idea of living in the countryside, with acres of garden, etc, owing to unnatural amount of strange, lethal critters, the horrors of cesspits vs mains sewage, plus the schools issue. Added to the fact that we really didn’t move to Dallas for the countryside. Having lived in a National Parks forest in the UK, Texas country ain’t that much to shout about. Get a little further out of town and it starts to get interesting, but the one-hour drive in and around Dallas/Plano/Richardson (the Metroplex) has really very little to offer. It’s pleasant enough, but flat, and semi-scrubland desert.

So we found ourselves in Plano, a very nice, safe and clean city, with lovely houses and great schools. It’s also quite mulitcultural, owing to the recent influx of migrant educated workers from various parts of the world.

We have a graceful, cool, large house, just over 4,000 sq.ft., with more features than you can shake a stick at, including a nice pool and attached spa in the back garden. After being crammed into a tiny Edwardian 2-up 2-down “cottage”, falling down, old, in Surrey, I can honestly relate that raising kids in a large house makes you a better parent…

Buying is so easy over here: it takes around 30 days on average. Things are easier for the buyer than in the UK, with the seller often having to make lots of repairs recommended on the survey, as a condition of the sale. Plus, you have a realtor that works just for the buyer, rather than having a realtor try to sell you a house, and work on behalf of seller AND buyer.

The downside is that selling is expensive, as you have to make those repairs (:-), plus there’s commission for two realtors, plus you have to offer home warranties, and stuff.

So here we are. Settled in Texas. The first leg of our Surrey to Texas adventure is over. One year after arriving, we have bought a home and started to put down roots.

Our first mad 6 months were fun, like a holiday; deliberately so. We wanted to be sure to have a positive first experience.

The following 6 months were about how to live here, properly, as a family. We’ve certainly started on that; we have a few good and developing friends; we understand a bit better about the lay of the land, how to get around, how to remember which anonymous corner mall the shop you need is on. We have our Texas driving licenses — yes, we had to take a written and practical test! — and we still haven’t found out where to buy “liquor”, aka, drink of the devil. I have accidentally strayed into a church one day, which cunningly has a small music venue in it’s basement. But just the once.

What have I discovered in this year after throwing in everything we had previously? Well, that I appreciate the slower pace of life over here, the attainability of good things in life, like lovely houses (not to be underestimated when having young kids means you don’t get out much!), having time to really get to know your family. I appreciate the chance to see some more of the world, and to broaden my experiences in life. I appreciate the acceptance that the Americans we have met over here have shown to us, the open welcome, and the friendliness. I appreciate the sunshine. It is easy to forget just how far north Britain is. I appreciate the new schools with good facilities and great standards, for my kids (that’s quite specific to Plano — boy were we luckY).

I appreciate the chance to express my creativity, through developing my painting, and art, and other creative outlets.

I appreciate the chance not to feel bone tired all the time. I appreciate that people are courteous, and positive, and optimistic.

What do I miss? Hmmm. I miss the greeness; it was a particularly stark contrast for us, having lived in the lushest part of southern England you would have believed, just stunning. We appreciated it at the time (it’s why we bought the house we did). Metroplex cities are heavily treed, but the underlying tone of north Texas is semi-desert. I miss the pubs, and the chatter about the world, and everything.

There’s no chance to gather and just chat about this that and the other over here. Unless you are “doing” something that you have to be a member of. And then, the chat is about that topic. Americans fear to delve too deep, for fear of offence.

I miss the people I knew, of course. I miss being close to the seaside. Naturally, I miss my old company, Amazon. I miss the tele, but then, no surprise there.

The thing about living in a different country, is that the cultural references are missed which makes it hard to place anything. Sometimes, I feel that I’d have to be living in this house in the UK for me to know what I really feel about it; it’s almost as if it’s a ‘foreign’ house, so I can’t rate it. It’s like, I could tell you if my life was perfect if it was in the UK, because it would be in a cultural web I understood, and could delineate.

I think I am very happy; that’s what my heart and head tell me. But I sometimes think that my gut (soul?) is still waiting to go home to Britain, so i can flop down on the couch and have a good think about it all.

The upshot is that it was totally the right thing to do; I sometimes find myself thinking: hmmm, where next? Hawaii, maybe…;-)

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