First impressions

It feels like we’ve been here for at least a week, but as I look at my [empty] calendar, I see it’s been only five days. Today has been an unexpected lazy day since they released Aaron this morning after formation. It’s also been a much-needed lazy day. In the past three weeks, we’ve had maybe two of these.

Here are some observations I’d like to make about El Paso, some first impressions, if you will…

  • It’s hot. Like, 95-101° for the high. However, it’s not humid. The relative humidity is usually around 20% or lower and decreases throughout the day. The weather in the past 24 hours or so has been a little different… it rained last night and it was only 81° until about lunch time. It felt, well, cool. However, I’m thirsty all the time. Water, water, water.
  • People actually go the speed limit. On I-10 through town, the speed limit is only 60, and guess what? People go 60-65, not the crazed 80-85 in a 55 like through Chicagoland. It’s strange, people not riding your butt or cutting you off, and if they do they apologize by a wave of the hand.  I’ve heard it’s a $500 fine for driving and texting. I’m doing my best to not drive like an Illinoisan, especially on post. Traffic violations on a military installation are not cheap.
  • There are soooo many “left turn only” and “right turn only” lanes… you’re just driving along and then you find you need to get over to the center lane to avoid turning unexpectedly. It seems even people with Texas plates have to change lanes quickly sometimes.
  • I found this out today: El Paso was ranked the safest city with the lowest crime rate in cities with a population over 500,000. How about that? I’m not sure why… maybe it’s because in this state, you just don’t know who’s packin’, so you just don’t mess with people. Or maybe that with all the violence in Juárez, law enforcement is that much more diligent.
  • The interstate around the city doesn’t have cloverleaf ramps… there are one-way roads that run along the interstate, and if you need to go the other way, they provide a u-turn only lane that goes under the interstate. Pretty cool.
  • So many people are bilingual. We went to Joann Fabrics today and the cashier spoke perfect Spanish and perfect English with no accent in either language. It’s crazy that I spent four years and thousands of dollars learning a language when I could have just come down here and learned it for free.
  • People don’t seem to care which language you speak, or if you speak both. They just go with the flow. Our waiter last night at Applebee’s helped us in English, but spoke Spanish with the two little old ladies sitting across from us. It seems in Illinois, there’s a much more harsh expectation. I heard about it every day in my classroom, “Mrs W., why do we even need to learn Spanish? We’re in America.. shouldn’t everyone speak English?”
    • Well, regardless of one’s political stance on that, the fact is that people speak Spanish. Lots of people. The cultures here are so intertwined and have been for so long, that you just go with the flow. It’s refreshing. I know that if I started speaking Spanish, I wouldn’t feel ridiculed for pronouncing something wrong or saying the wrong word. They would do their best to understand me, just as I do my best to understand people who try speaking English when it’s not their first language.
  • Gas is cheaper down here, especially on post. Yesterday, I filled up my tank for about $44, at $3.26 per gallon. Awesome. I love the benefits of being military.

Here are a couple pictures… today for lunch we stopped by this German café and bakery… yum. For two lunches (included a sandwich, side salad and drink) and four pastries (we got those for later), it was only $20. It is called Pascuale Bakery, but used to be Peter’s German Café and Bakery, started by a German soldier who relocated to the El Paso/Juaréz area.

one of the cases
aaron got the bratwurst sandwich + caesar salad, i got the caprese sandwich + garden salad... apple soda to drink!

So far, I like it here. In the past five days, I’ve learned where the basics are and how to get there. I’ve learned what gates are open all the time, and which are closed on weekends. I love the [mostly] seamless mix of culture and language… I’m eager to brush up on my español.

Friday we get keys to move into our house. We are also supposed to get our HHG (household goods) from Illinois. I cannot wait to make this place our home! Our home. It’s about time.

I have applied for a couple jobs.. one for the education office on post and one for a clerical position in an elementary school within a very short walking distance from the house. Thursday I go to take the clerical test and finish up my application. Either job would be awesome because since we have one car, I could take Aaron to work and then go work on post (or vice versa), or with the other job he can take the car and I can walk to work.

If it crosses your mind, please pray for continued patience and peace for me, and for this transition. It’s been great most of the time, but we have our moments. 😉

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