Saturday, August 8, 2009

To Readers Abroad

Oh sweet wifi.

As Chris mentioned, it's now up and running. Unnamed phone company finally got their AT together with their T and got it working properly.

Apologies galore for our lapse in writing.

As mentioned, the blog is going through some changes. Both theme, approach, look...we might divide it into two blogs, might not, lots to discuss.

Your comments on what you'd like to see were really helpful.

All 3 of them.

So this post is mostly for those not living in Texas or the United States. If you do live in either of those places the post could still prove interesting, but it's mostly designed for those foreign to American apartment living and life in the Texas suburbs.

So, to those in Spain, England, Ireland, Australia, France, Belgium, Turkey, Canada, Norway (yes, Norway) and China (when you can get past the Great Firewall) - this one's for you. Thanks for reading.

If I had friends visiting from Europe or Asia or any other continent, I would hope they would say that Dallas, Texas is a friendly place. I would hope they would recognize the ease of buying milk or getting gas or finding donuts at 11 pm. I think they would be tickled to see how cheap common place items like trash cans and notebooks are. The Dollar Store would be an immediate favorite I'm sure.

I think they would love the Mexican food and probably crave it when they went back home.

I would hope they'd think the roads are good and customer service is adequate (this is compared to what's available in their home country of course...where most of the time sending back a meal is unheard of and returning items once opened is impossible.)

Drive through banking and ATM's would get a big thumbs up, I think.

I would think my foreign friends would enjoy the almost limitless technology available.

On the downside, I'm pretty sure they would notice how large most Americans are. I know they would find our general lack of interest in healthy physiques both startling and sad.

I know they would be frustrated at the lack of public transportation. And they would probably feel overwhelmed anytime they went to shop for something and couldn't get the salesperson off their back.

They might feel it's hard living in a country where most everyone sets their value based on house size and car price.

I get a good feeling when I'm in a country or town where value is set on how much time is spent with family, or how open-minded one is, or how great the local beer tastes!

And let's go ahead and say what no one wants to say, or hear; there are many Americans so patriotic and full of American pride, they refuse to concede there are some things that America is doing, and has done wrong.

This can be quite a turn-off to foreigners who though patriotic to a point, will easily concede there are things their country needs to improve upon.

People that have never left America and don't have anything to compare it to can't truly know what to appreciate, or not appreciate, about their own country. They don't get the chance to see that some other countries have better ideas and programs when it comes to education. And they don't get to compare banking hours abroad enough to know they appreciate that their bank doesn't take siesta.

Don't get me wrong, patriotism can be good if it's done right.

I wish every American was required to spend a total of one month on 3 different continents. That could be one week on one, one week on another, and two on another. It could be spread-out over two years or done all at once. But either way, it would lead to the majority of Americans having a larger world view.

I find myself wanting to say negative things about the US but I don't know who to say them to. I don't feel there are many people wanting to listen.

And I'm not sure why not.

Don't we want to improve? Don't we want to be the best we can be?

Then what's wrong with noting what we need to improve upon and looking to others to figure out how to do things better? We don't always have to be in the "right" or on the cutting edge.

All that being said, here's the lighter side of this post, pictures of the new apartment.

I'll take some more of the outside facilities.

For those abroad, this is not a typical apartment complex in TX. Or anywhere in the US as I know it.

We're surrounded by 8 pools, a bar, a restaurant, parks, shopping, a gym, a clubhouse, all within walking distance.
All the buildings look different and many are town homes or lofts that you can buy.

Our apartment is a simple 2 bedroom, 2 bath, and we're quite happy here. It's quite a step-up from what we were in as it has clean running water and furniture that doesn't break when you sit on it.

We do miss the little guy coming to knock on our door at random and hang a Turkish flag on our balcony.

(All pictures taken with an iPhone hence slightly questionable quality. Also, nothings been hung on the walls yet.)


Living Room



Sarah's Home Office


Chris's Home Office

Come visit anytime. Mexican food and cheap notebooks await!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Ahhh...American Bandwidth.

There we go. Finally got internet hooked up and going at our new apartment. I've been trying to think of a witty acronym for AT&T to post as a title to this blog. But at the moment I'm too happy to act mean to them. Even if the process did take three weeks to complete.

So we've been living in north Dallas for a month and four days now.

It's been a challenge resetting our lives in America. Of course, there are one hundred and one modern conveniences we'll never take for granted again after Turkey. But with those conveniences come one hundred and one hoops to jump through, it seems.

I forgot (or never truly understood) just how complex life in America is.

I stood in the aisle paralyzed by the dozens of different kinds of mustard to choose from on a recent trip to Target. I knew that I wanted mustard and I knew that all I had to do was pick a bottle of mustard up and take it to the cash register. But my mind couldn't even begin the process of weighing the dozens of variables involved in making a selection.

Job hunting in America is also complicated. Nearly every potential employer I contacted required that I fill in the blanks on each of their own practically identical but nonetheless proprietary online applications. Most of them were more than happy to allow me to attach my resume (which had all the information they were asking me to fill out in the first place) to my online submission.

The truth is, these online applications represent a series of gradually narrowing hoops. If you fit through the first series of hoops (the criteria they have established in their software) then you'll get the chance to see if you can squeeze through the next series of hoops (i.e. you might get the luxury of speaking to a human being). Despite this dehumanizing system of maze running, I have recently secured employment at a place I respect doing work I enjoy.

Before I left (less than a year ago), I could still count on talking to another human being when I patronized the drive-through lane of a sandwich shop like Jimmy John's. Now when I pull up to the walkie-talkie sign thing, I get a pre-recorded message from the owner of the restaurant before an actual downtrodden sixteen-year-old can ask me if I would like to increase the size of my order for only a few cents more.

Certainly, no place I know has more complicated food than America does. Pre-packaged, pre-cooked, microwave-safe, preservative-rich pseudo food surrounds me here. Also; butter, salt, butter, salt, butter and salt. Some food comes with butter or salt, but most food comes with butter and salt. And I'll never forget the first American meal I ate in a restaurant upon my return. It was the biggest plate I have ever seen. The restaurant wasn't making an artistic choice in their presentation; every square centimeter of it was covered with food.

I couldn't even finish half of the food before me that night. But I've been here a month, I'm readjusting quickly. At the doctor's office this week I weighed in at 188 pounds. That's about 5 pounds heavier than I weighed when I landed.

Of course, my body doesn't really bear any responsibilities to move anymore. When I was abroad I walked everywhere, all day, every day, for everything. Now I get up from my seat to walk a few feet to sit in another seat that drives me to my job where I walk a few feet to sit in another seat where I do my work and then a couple of hours later I do the same process in reverse until I feel sleepy, at which time I walk a few feet to lay on a comfy bed.

When before, ample exercise was simply hard-wired into every task in my daily routine, now if I want to "exercise" I have to make a separate time for it in my day outside of my daily routine. This must be a common problem faced by a large portion of Americans, a society which currently suffers from a 66% rate of obesity or overweightness (Center for Disease Control, 2009).

I'm so very pleased to be back home in the States. Just a few days ago I caught myself hesitating to fill my glass from the tap, feeling unconsciously suspicious that the water might not be safe. I felt so lucky when I remembered that it isn't a concern I need to worry about here. The advantages and the benefits of living in America far outweigh any negatives I can think of, current economic recession included.

It's good; but it's complicated. I've basically gone a year without watching TV. I didn't miss it very much when it was gone, but now that we're home we decided to get the most basic cable TV plan. I asked the lady from AT&T to tell me how many channels their most basic, stripped-down plan had and I couldn't believe it when she told me that it had 40 channels. I asked her for a cheaper, simpler service and she told me that she offered no such service. Sarah and I watch about three of them; I'm not even sure what the other 37 are. How can I possibly make room in my head to watch 40 channels after being perfectly happy watching 0? Why can't I just choose and pay for those three channels, wouldn't that make more sense?

Or maybe "more" sense isn't the kind of sense worth making, maybe that's the point. Maybe it's "better" sense that we need.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Blog Update

I think my littlest sister put it best: "...why no blogs lately? Combination of crazy stalkers and no internet? Gotta love it."

Yes. All those reasons and more.

I think we warned everyone we are in a transitional phase with the blog.

The transition phase came at such a good time since unnamed phone company cannot figure out how to get wifi working at our apartment.

We'll be back in working order soon. Many good things to come. Hang with us.