I was born and raised in a small Texas town where I lived for 50 years before Fate sent me places I didn’t know existed; starting out with the nasty and vile Afghanistan and ended up in the sensual country of Brazil.
I sat outside the other day with whiskey and cigar thinking of the countries I visited. Everywhere I went I stayed in 3-5 star hotels for security reasons, most of the time. There were places that just did not have those top hotels, in which I stayed in shipping containers at $300 a night (Juba, South Sudan) or tents (Kandahar). I never took public transportation until Moscow. I always rode in my personal vehicle, taxi or armored-up SUV, one driven by a man with only one eye who drove at speeds that made my sphincter clamp shut, (Karshi, Uzbekistan). Taxi drivers can do that also at times, especially in a country where they drive on the opposite side of the road. Your first thoughts are, We are in the wrong lane! We are going to die!!
When I traveled to the US Consulate in Lagos, Nigeria, I had to take a boat ride across the river with armed military riding on the back for protection. It was there I had to pay for my hotel room with the local currency, as using a credit card was unsafe.
I worked with people at all levels. Ambassadors, local policemen, various militias, and people who I never knew who they were or what they did. These were people who I was told to give them anything they wanted. I had a chance to shake hands with an American President, which I politely declined. I was told to show up for a group photograph with the Secretary of State, but deftly slipped away. Yet the ones I found most enjoyable to be around were the maintenance people. My type of good people.
And now I sit in a small town in Texas (The Greatest Country on Earth), about thirty miles from the Gulf coast. It is the old historic town of Victoria. We bought a house and are still in the process of setting up, and still have boxes of items from the past to unpack. As I write this, I am thinking how my mother would have done all sorts of research on the town before we moved here.
I’ve not lived in a small town since 2007, fourteen years, so it will be an interesting change of life. I have a large backyard that greeted me with plenty of foliage to deal with. I had to purchase a lawnmower, which has changed over the years, as they are no longer lightweight, but now require sweat and muscle to push. I thought over the decade, they would have used lighter metal. Another surprising thing I found, many no longer require an oil change.
The yard has fungus – mushrooms which I dug up and tossed. Whoever had this yard before must have loved doing that crap. It is a fast-growing lawn. The yard also has a scurry of squirrels that run free, reminding me the damn monkeys in Ethiopia. At first they were Oh so cute, until they destroyed the flowers. We will see what happens with these critters. They also remind me of the battles Pop had with the raccoons in his yard eating the bird feed.
Every place I lived in the past years, I could not make many changes to the house, but now I can drill holes wherever I want, and hang art anywhere I want. Install lighting, move switches and place furniture. This year I will change the electrical service to the house as what I have now is not legal. I am so looking forward to working on it that I already purchased the new electrical panel! Plus, there is a small workshop in the back which I will set up with complete power. The shop is too small, but in the future I may add to it.
We chose the small town to avoid the chaos in larger cities, and this town is perfect for us. When I step out of the house, the first thing I notice is the fresh air. And here the weather is much warmer. I told many people that when I retire, I want to live in a warmer climate. I have worked too many places in sub-freezing weather. I have yet to experience the Summer here, but I can do the heat and humidity. It will never be the heat of Afghanistan or Dibouti. As I am writing this, it is 75° outside and 15° in Lubbock Texas. Tomorrow it will be a “cold” 49° here.
One thing I was not expecting was how friendly people are in a small town. I am not a conversationist like my dad was, but when I am in a store, I now greet clerks and cashiers with a kind word. Many times as I enter or leave a store, I will pass by others in the parking lot and many will greet me. No idea who they are, but it makes me feel good about people and enjoy passing the friendliness to others.
BUT, when I am in my neighborhood, I do my best to avoid the neighbors, because I don’t want to get pulled in a conversation. Case in point: There is an old woman who lives across the street. She walks with a walker in her driveway while surrounded by cats. In the first few days of our arrival, I got out of the vehicle and heard her yell, “Hellooooo.” just like my Mother used to do when she was calling to see who was in the house. I ignored her hoping she would think I didn’t hear her because I was walking really fast to get into the house. Then a few days later, it happened again, and I had to at least acknowledge her. So, I looked at her as she was hollering and she was waving like the beauty contestants at a parade. I just smiled at her as she yelled, “Sorry I haven’t been over to see you yet.”
I thought, Oh my…
This woman came from the time when the neighbors would welcome new families to the neighborhood with a pie. This made me shutter wondering if others would try the shenanigan. For the first month, I would peek out the windows when someone is walking by, fearing they would want to drop by. So far, my fears have been unfounded. But I still get startled when the doorbell rings.
But we are okay and very content with our life. We are planning to be here at least 5 years, and after that …. we will see. In the meantime, we will continue kicking butt and enjoying any adventure we encounter as long as they don’t ring the doorbell.