Texan Pligrimage

I am a Canadian from the Maritimes, staying for the fall in Waco, Texas, with my fiance, while I apply to grad school at Baylor University. Here you will find an account of my stay in a strange new land.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Christmas in Texas

As I'm sure all of you are aware, the month-long season of Christmas is upon us. Despite the--to my mind--unseasonable temperatures, I am definitely beginning to feel the effects: increased laziness, desire to eat unhealthy foods, total inability to get anything useful done, and, of course, incontrovertible urge to shop! Sadly, my laziness of late has spilled over into my blogging, so I thought I should at least post you a few meditations on the season as experienced in Texas. Matt and I will be arriving home--in Fredericton on December 14--and in Miramichi on the 19th--and we are eagerly awaiting seeing friends and family when we arrive.

The weather has been utterly unbelievable lately. A week ago, we experienced a wave of humidity the likes of which I have never known. I practically lay stuck to the couch for three days. Every attempt to move resulted in my entire body being soaked in sweat. Our attempts to keep cool were thwarted by the fact that the apartment's central air had already been switched from cold-mode to hot-mode. Then, I believe on Wednesday night or so, the weather snapped, "winter mix" (variously identified as slush, hail and clod rain) started falling from the sky, and it became apparent how poorly insulated our windows are. I could see my breath on Thursday morning. The weather has now settled down to its sunny self, except that it is cold enough to require a sweater or light jacket. So, you see, in Waco, Christmas really is a season: the cold one.

One other event worthy of note: there is a Mennonite farming community called Homestead slightly north of Waco that holds a heritage fair every year, and I recently had a very nice time there. There is an extensive craft market, where I was quite overcome by the loveliness of the goods: everything from hand-made scented soaps and candles to pottery, artwork, handmade furniture and quilts. And the children of the community learn these skills quite young, meaning that half of the things on display had little tags on them, explaining that they were made by so-and-so, 13 years old. I had to keep reminding myself that I can come again next year, and that my finances will likely be in better condition by then. We also saw a sheep-dog at work, and checked out a lovely petting zoo. Actually, at the petting zoo, I saw one of the mysterious river turkey-ducks, but I still couldn't find its name anywhere. So that little mystery persists. Finally, there was a bit of a tour you could take to see bits of the working village: the blacksmith's shop, the grist-mill, the beehives. Very interesting! If anyone at Kings Landing is reading this, you may be interested to know that they run their grist mill off a small water-wheel rather than a turbine. How old-fashioned of them! ;) Also at the Heritage Homestead fair, I was stung by a wasp, bringing the total number of vicious bug-attacks I have suffered in Texas to four.

Anyway, pictures are always fun, so here are some pictures of Waco sites for your enjoyment.

Here is our apartment, featuring Matt hard at work on an end-of term paper. It's very small: you are looking at most of the living room and dining room, but it is big enough for us (just). Oh, also, in the foreground is my computer: the means of my communication with all of you.

This is Burleson Hall: home of Baylor's PoliSci program, and Matt's home away from home. It is decorated with its Christmas lights. This building is about four stories high: it frankly boggles my mind how they got those lights all strung up there. It's very pretty, though.
And here are Matt and I. Note the sweaters. Not our most flattering picture, perhaps, but we too about a dozen in a row trying to get one that looked this good, so it will have to do.

Well, I'll say goodbye for now, but I hope to see y'all soon.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Rudy's Bar-B-Q

Hello all!

After three weeks of intense study for the GRE, I wrote it last Friday, did quite well, I am happy to report, and have now re-entered the land of the living! It's funny how different the world looks when one is not exclusively focussed on a single event. I went for a long walk alone yesterday afternoon, and it felt like the first time I had been alone with my thoughts in ages. It was a beautiful day. With the breeze, the temperature was probably 18 to 20 Celsius. As the sun set, the wind came up and blew in some lovely mottled clouds, making it cool enough for me to put on the turtleneck I'd brought. I've discovered a park called "Pecan Bottoms" full of old trees and grassy expanses. It's about three or four kilometers from my house, and there are nice clean park benches facing the river: the perfect spot to take a book. I've often bemoaned the fact that I have yet to discover a really tranquil coffee shop in Waco where you could take a book. At least the weather is such, though, that you can read outside if you can once find a good spot for it.

I have few little bits of news which I realized I have not shared, so now seems an opportune time.

1) Matt and I have joined a choir, consisting of mostly Classics professors, and of Dr. Corey, with whom Matt has an assistantship (he's the one who invited us to join). We are a small chamber ensemble who meet for an hour on Friday afternoons to sing early music: you can well imagine that I find this delightful. The idea of the group is more to get together and enjoy music than to perform, so it is low pressure: just an hour's release from the stresses of the day.

2) We've also joined a crop sharing association which is an offshoot of the nearby World Hunger Relief Farm. For $14 a week, we get to pick up a basket full of weird and wonderful vegetables from the farm. Some of my favourites so far have been asian turnips, little mini eggplants, bunches of fresh dill, cilantro, basil and parsley, and most recently, baby cantaloupes! The growing season down here extends into December, so I am expecting many more delightful surprises.

3) We have been lent two bikes by two different charitable individuals: we are now free to cruise the streets of Waco in high style. For a while we only had one: a real roadster, with big wide handle-bars and a basket. I wish I had gotten a picture of Matt on it, because I probably won't be able to, now that we also have a sportier one. These bikes, actually, have been very useful in picking up our Crop-share vegetables. So obviously everything is working out as it should.

But now onto the title-event of this posting: the trip we took with friends last Friday night to Rudy's Bar-B-Q and Country Store (notice that one of the Rudy's locations is listed on the website as "closed due to lightning strike." I'm not sure why this should seem singularly appropriate to me, but it does.). This was a real experience. There are no plates at Rudy's: just big sheets of parchment-paper with piles of meat on them. You buy your meal by the pound, load the meat onto white bread, slather it in "sause," and top with onions, pickles and jalapeƱos. I have oft been accused of being a vegetarian, but rest assured, this is not the case! I LOVED it! Apparently the meat we had this time was a little dry (we ordered lean, so it serves us right), but it was still practically falling apart. We ate at picnic tables in a section of the restaurant decorated to look like a garage. And of course, we were serenaded by country music as we ate. Honest to goodness, it was really fun! Occasionally, when I put myself in a real Texas situation, I have a flash of understanding as to why Texans love their homeland so much. Every now and then...