Life in the Midwest is pretty much everything we expected it to be… yet… more. And less. So philosphical.
Karen and I were making a list the other day of some of those differences and I thought, given the fact that I’m sitting here in the office while Karen works and it’s getting hot hot hot out there, that I would do something in our air conditioned house. Namely blog about some of the differences we’ve found so far after living in Urbana for 17 days.
It’s hot here… and that hot is a different kind of hot. Hot as in the butter is always soft if you leave it on the counter. Really soft… melting soft. Even inside with the air conditioning on. Not only that… ice cubes melt incredibly fast. They are there… then poof, gone. Your glass has sweated all over the table, coaster, napkin, whatever. Inside mind you, inside with the air conditioning blasting. Not outside, where ice wouldn’t stand a chance at all.
Sunsets are beautiful here… and the weather creates part of that, but so does the endless skyline. No mountains to block them out so they last a long long time. It’s flat. Really flat. So the sunsets last and last… lingering over the corn fields and prairie grasses for a very long time. Gorgeous.
It’s never quiet… during the day there’s the regular noise… cars driving by, people walking by, dogs barking (ours and others), horns honking, garbage trucks, people mowing their lawns. A cacophony of sound for a couple of girls who used to live out in the country… we’re getting used to it and actually like a certain measure of it. It’s the symphony of moving life all around us. The thing that’s shocking is the night noise… the sound of the cicadas. So loud. So very loud. It’s such an interesting thing since we didn’t have them in the Pacific Northwest. We had the occasional owl sound and sometimes coyotes, but that was only once in a while. This wall of sound from the cicadas is amazing. Not annoying to us, just shocking.
Humidity. We were not prepared. We thought we were mentally prepared, knew it would be the hardest part of the transition, but we were not prepared. Neither of us like that kind of heat. Hot, damp, heavy air. Not fans. And it’s not even because our bouffants don’t stay up or that when we tease it suddenly goes limp… and yes, I’m kidding, about the bouffants and the teasing I mean. It’s an amazing thing, this humidity. We are learning, slowly, all about dew points and heat indexes and why 60% humidity in Oregon is nothing like 60% humidity here. It’s a learning curve, and air conditioning is our friend. That and fans… loads and loads of new fans.
There’s something to be said for a small kitchen. Our kitchen in this house is small. Smaller than the kitchen we had in Scappoose. Not much counter space, and hardly any cupboard space at all. It’s cool… with it’s granite counter tops, great gas stove and oven, it’s under mount sink. But it’s small… really small. But… we like it. Who knew? We put up a big metro shelf for storage of food. It’s all out and open to the room, but we love that about it. We also got a metro cart that we put spices and baking stuff on and added a cool dark bamboo cutting board to the top of it so we could move it around and use it for chopping and such when we needed more room. It works great. When we put our bowls and large collection of coffee cups away from the dishwasher we don’t have to move at all. Everything is right there. Easy, close, convenient, and very organized. It has to be. It is. We like it. Simple. Of course, having a small kitchen is helped by the fact that we can store anything that doesn’t fit, the stuff we don’t use very often, down in our second kitchen. It’s small too, but it holds the overflow nicely. We got lucky there.
I had here, next, that we couldn’t find raw dog food… and it was a challenge. We tried several places with no luck. We thought, wow… there are a lot of dogs here, we see them all the time. People love their dogs here, like in Portland, so what gives. No raw? Finally we looked up the company that makes it and used their locate our products in your area tab… one place. In Savoy. It’s only 4 miles from our house, and it’s a very cool feed/country store. They have everything a pet owner or horse and cattle man might want. Plus, they were nice. So… we couldn’t find it, but now we did, and we love the store. There you go. Out in Savoy we also discovered a huge movie theater, a new Shnuck’s grocery store, a Buffalo Wild Wings (Karen was a happy happy woman knowing she could get Asian Zing so close to our house), and a small myriad of other little places. Savoy is the nearby hamlet that seems to just keep on giving.
Living in a University town again is really cool. I’ve always loved Universities… the vibe, the life, the people (students and staff alike) rushing to go somewhere important. This town, these towns, with this huge University at the center of them, is the same. There will be art, and music, and sporting events galore. There will be philosophical discussions to over hear in coffee shops and restaurants, there will be slightly drunk young men to talk to outside of the Black Dog Smoke and Ale House when we go to get take out. Awesome!
Lots of bugs and five times times the size. There are a lot of bugs here. And they are big. Nothing to really expound on except that I saw a thing (and then Mary saw it) at Mary and Martin’s house… it looked like a small bird, only it was a bee or hornet or some such thing that was too awfully big to be anything other than awful. I’m sure it chased me into their house one day. I’m sure of it. I narrowly escaped. It was frightening. Mary saw it a few days later going into a hole in the ground in their back yard. Karen filled the hole with a crap load of sand. Hopefully that thing won’t be making another fly by appearance. Creepy.
There are super friendly people here. Really friendly. We have had most all of our close neighbors come over to say hello to us. Two even brought baked goods. We haven’t returned the plate to one of them, so they might not be feeling as friendly toward us right now, but they will again when we bring it back with oatmeal cookies on it. That’s our plan… bribe them back with our own baked goods. But it’s not just our neighbors… everyone everywhere we go has been friendly. Nice nice nice. They say hello when you pass them, look you in the eye, mean it. Nice. Friendly. Sure, there’s that anonymous neighbor who has called the cops on us twice for barking dogs (admittedly once before we got here and the kids were living here with their dogs… and then one time later when their dogs were over here… though I’m sure it was all four of them barking). We don’t know who they are, since they wish to remain anonymous, and the police, who came to the door both times, said the second time that really they just wanted to make sure the dogs were OK and not being left outside in the heat. Once they knew we had a doggie door they were like, no worries…
Nights are (forever without you…. laaaaa… that song just popped into my head… I digress) warmer for being out and about. One fantastic thing about living here is the night time weather. It’s so nice being in shorts and flip flops out and about at 9 or 10 or 11 and it’s warm. A nice little breeze, but still 75 or 80. We both love love love that. It’s summer… and flip flops and shorts, no sweatshirt… awesome! In fact, the other night when we were at the Sweetcorn Festival waiting for Survivor to start we were both a tad shocked when we said we were just a little chilly. Not bad, but just a little. The sweat that happens here, followed by a cool breeze in the evening, even when it’s still 80, cools a person down. We are acclimating. And everything is relative. Any way you look at this one, we love being out and about in the evenings without having to don a sweatshirt… or even take one with us.
It’s really fun to discover a new place. Every day we find a new restaurant to try, or a new store we want to go to, or a new park to walk the dogs in. And that’s just in these two towns. There are neighboring towns and townships, neighboring states and parks, all waiting for us to discover them. It’s an exciting thing… even just walking the aisles of the local grocery stores. We’re learning, discovering, experiencing the adventure of it all. That’s a great fantastic thing.
We’ve worn more wicking t-shirts than ever before, in our lives… they work great. And they dry fast. Enough said… this one goes along with the humidity factoid.
Being so close to everything is nice for walking and just going to the store. Not having lived in town for a very long time, for me, and for a very very long time, for Karen, it’s really nice to get anywhere we want to go in minutes. I had to drive across the cities on Monday and I got over there in 10/15 minutes. Easy. And closer to home we can walk to restaurants, the library, the recent Sweetcorn Festival, and parks. It’s lovely. As soon as Karen gets that walking boot off we will also be bike riding. We’re both looking forward to that. It’s one of the things we wanted in coming here and our house is definitely in a great spot for that. Very different from our life in Scappoose where we had to drive to go anywhere.
8.75 sales tax is shocking. There’s only a 1% on food in the grocery store, but it’s a surprise to us, every time, when we go to pay for something. No more knowing exactly what you’re spending when you walk up to the counter. The taxes here are high… and that’s no lie.
Pumping your own gas is cool (karen is not a fan). For a girl from Oregon I’m used to other people pumping my gas. I love that I can just whip in to a station, hop out, pump the gas, and go. Karen isn’t as big a fan as I am. She likes someone to do it. To not have to get out of the car. I may feel the same way when the temperatures turn cold here, but for now I love it.
Having a fenced backyard for the pups is awesome. In Scappoose we didn’t have a fence. We did that on purpose as we didn’t want to mess with the aesthetic of the place, but it caused me stress when the pups were outside. I would worry, too much I’m sure, about where they were, what they were doing, where they were going. I could never really relax outside if they were out with us, which they usually were. I was always worried someone would drive up and not see them or they would chase something down the driveway to the road. Always worried. Here… no worries. There’s a completely fenced back yard that’s really decent size. They are loving it more and more and I love that they have it, and that I don’t have to stress about them. Ahhhhhh….
The new medical facilities are very nice. The transition with my medical stuff has gone really well, and the new facilities here are really nice. It’s sweet. We will see how it is when Karen goes to get her ankle looked at in a couple of weeks and I go to have a new patient consult with a GP in a couple of weeks. But so far… it’s good.
Pacific northwest people don’t know anything about thunderstorms… and that included us. So… yes, I did learn about thunderstorms, as did Kev, when we drove Mary’s car out here in June. Tornado warnings, black upon black clouds, etc. Scary stuff then. But even the regular thunderstorms here… boat loads of rain in a really short amount of time, LOUD thunder and lightening that hits the ground. It’s fun and fantastic to watch, and also a tad scary at the same time. I think I like them… and am scared by them…. it’s going to be a love hate relationship.
Shopping is an adventure… none of our known stores are here… besides things like Walgreens I mean. We have Meijer, and Shnucks, and County Market. We have the Co-op and Strawberry Fields for more natural and organics though Meijer actually has some decent organic selections. It’s learning a whole new system of grocery buying for us. It’s fun actually. As is learning about new restaurants and deciding where we should go for my upcoming birthday weekend (we decided on Southern Illinois and the Shawnee National Forest). It’s all an adventure… finding new places to take the pups for walks, learning about where to see music,
Lastly, for now anyway… Illinois sweet corn is good. Very tasty. We are fans. Karen is in corn heaven!
It’s continuing to be different, new, strange, good, scary, happy, sweet, sad from missing everyone, great, adventurous, and beautiful to get to spend time with Sebastian, Mary, and Martin. It’s what we feared, but more than we hoped for. It’s life… and we are living it!