Austin!

View of Lake Travis, north-west of Austin. You can see how low the water level is at the moment – it’s usually to the trees

After a pretty extensive break, I am back! We arrived in our new home about a week ago but I’ve been spending most of the time since trying to beat jetlag into submission, look for places to live and figure out driving on the wrong side of the road. And, of course, adjust to the heat – it was the middle of winter at home, but 42 degrees celsius on the night that we arrived!

Figuring out how to live in a new country is always a challenge. In addition to all of the administrative and new-life-establishing hurdles, there’s also a journey of discovery into how people live here – what do they do? How do they think? What are their values? Obviously these are never completely universal, but there is always a sense of commonality that makes a city or a town tick.

Austin is a strange place. That’s certainly not to say that I don’t like it, because I do. But there is this weird combination of hipsters and yuppies, Prius’s and the BIGGEST trucks you’ve ever seen in your life. Outside the centre of Downtown, it’s a real struggle to find meat free food and I’ve become reliant on the Whole Foods salad bar, the bar next door and the local Chipotle. The north side of town is a carnivores dream or a vegetarian’s nightmare, depending on how you look at it. On the other hand, the South area, where we are hoping to live, seems to be full of amazing vegetarian food and the most hipster-y bars imaginable. I kind of love the contrast, but it’s weird to get used to.

The lack of meatless food options is just one of the environmental things that I’ve found quite different to home. Food portions are astoundingly large and the resources required to produce them, plus the associated waste must be phenomenal. People seem to give me odd looks if I say that I’m walking or using the bus to get around. Everyone up this end of town seems to drive everywhere. Texas is in the grip of a drought, but there are no dual flush toilets.

These are obviously just my first impressions and I could be way off the mark – please don’t take offence to anything I’ve said! I guess that so far, I’ve just been surprised by the scale of the difference to Sydney, where dual flush loos are at every home and store, everyone uses public transport where possible and meat-free options are so widely available. I’m looking forward to the next few weeks living here though, and I’ll be sure to clarify if any of my first impressions were wrong. Right now though, I’m mainly just enjoying the chance to experience something new.

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