Monday, September 28, 2009

A Day in the Park

I've been a little delinquent in posting lately, but it's mostly been due to Roxi and I being very busy getting settled into our new place in Memphis. Our POD arrived a little over a week ago and although we were able to unload almost everything in about four hours, unpacking the boxes and finding places for everything took (and is still taking!) a lot longer.

Our first look in the POD after eight months in storage.

What is all this crap and why did we put it in storage?!?

Half of the POD was unloaded in about 45 minutes!

Only a few hours after the POD arrived, it was almost completely empty...then the unpacking fun started!

We've spent most our evenings over the past week unpacking box after box of stuff. I was happy to let go of a lot of useless things that I have been moving around with for the past few years. We have a nice apartment in a great location, but it's a little smaller than we were planning on so it is really forcing us to be selective in what we keep...and I love it! I've been looking for an excuse to jettison some of my things for many years, I just needed a push to get me started.

After spending most of this past Saturday unpacking the last of our boxes, we spent much of Sunday relaxing. It was a beautiful day in Memphis yesterday so we took the short walk to Overton Park to explore.

The Levitt Shell where Elvis Presley played his first paying gig.

The Brooks Museum

It seems to be a nice park and I plan to walk some of the nature trails as the weather continues to cool this fall. All in all, things are working out nicely for us so far in Memphis. We couldn't be happier about the part of town we're in and Roxi can't stop telling me how much she loves her job. We love Memphis!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Roxi and I made our trip up from Lafayette last Thursday and now we are settling into life in Memphis. We live in a really cool part of Midtown within walking distance of several bars and restaurants. We grew so accustomed to walking everywhere in the Enschede, it's nice be be able to carry on in that tradition and never have to worry about parking or drinking too much to drive! Our storage POD is moving a little slower and is scheduled to arrive on Friday. Thankfully, Roxi's parents loaned us their air mattress and between the two of us, we have enough clothes to get by until everything else arrives later this week. All-in-all, it's been a pretty smooth transition. Roxi has started work this week leaving me to concentrate on errands around the new place and getting a job of my own. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Memphis Bound

A few weeks ago, Roxi received word that she was being offered a post-doctoral research position at the University of Memphis. At the time, we really weren't sure what we were going to do with ourselves as we were essentially homeless after our return from the Netherlands. We had been staying with Roxi's parents for a couple of weeks and we were thinking that we might try to find a place to live in Lafayette and sort of return to our pre-Holland lives.

Since receiving the invitation, life has moved very quickly. We originally thought that if Roxi was offered the position, she would not be starting until sometime in late October/early November. We soon learned that she would actually be starting in mid-September. Our transition time was suddenly shortened by months and we began to move quickly. So quickly, that I don't have time to keep up with my blog! It's been a couple weekends now, so I feel like I should write about our trip to Memphis before we actually move there tomorrow!

Roxi's employer invited us to travel to Memphis a couple weekends ago so that she could meet her new colleagues and so that we could scout out the city for a place to live. We started our journey early on a Saturday morning making the seven hour drive from Lafayette to Memphis. After making a few stops, we arrived at around five o'clock in the afternoon and headed to historic Beale Street. Although Roxi had never visited before, I had a fuzzy memory of the city from a trip I made about fifteen years ago. It was mostly as I remembered it, but much better now that I am of age to partake in the nightlife.

After seven hours in the car, Tennessee welcomed us.

You know you're in Memphis when...

After surveying the length of Beale street, we chose to have some beers and a burger at Alfred's. We couldn't have chosen a better place to experience Elvis nostalgia! We saw a great Elvis impersonator, complete with sequined jumpsuit, put on a wonderful show of the King's hits. After that we walked the street for a little while and witnessed what might be the best one-man band that I've ever seen. We ended the night with a few drinks at the Flying Saucer, one of my favorite bars from my time in Nashville that I was glad to see in Memphis.

Beale Street: A shorter, wider and cleaner version of Bourbon Street.

The King.

Richard Johnston: The best one man band I've ever heard.

Richard Johnston operates the bass drum with his right foot and a snare, tom and hi-hat with his left foot.

Richard Johnston's homemade guitar/bass with a low E bass string and B and high E guitar strings so that he can play them simultaneously.

We started Sunday with a visit to a local church before spending the afternoon with a realtor teaching us about the different neighborhoods of Memphis. We didn't get to see inside many properties on Sunday, but we certainly learned the layout of the city. Roxi went to some work meetings on Monday before we picked up where we had left off with the realtor on Sunday. We got to see inside a number of rental properties and settled on two: one was a little far from campus but in the midst of downtown life while the other was a great house not too far from campus but very far from any downtown activity.

After Roxi had another work meeting on Tuesday, we continued our housing search on our own with a tour of a very nice apartment complex and then a drive around neighborhoods close to campus looking for rental properties. While we were waiting to hear back from the realtor handling our two favorite properties from Monday, we stumbled upon a decent place very near campus. When we met with the realtor handling that property, she took us to another that turned out to be the place we chose. It is centrally located to both campus and downtown plus it's in a cool neighborhood!

Roxi's really excited about her new job and we're both looking forward to life in Memphis. Now we just need to make the drive back up there tomorrow and unload our POD when it arrives late next week. After we do that and I find myself a job, we'll be all set!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Impressions of the Netherlands

Roxi and I have been back from Europe for a month now and as our time in the Netherlands fades into memory, and we embark on our next adventure, I wanted to finish the blog post that I started in my mind shortly after our arrival overseas. In all honesty, I've been physically writing this post for more than two weeks and I really probably should have broken it up into multiple entries, but this felt like the best way to wrap-up our Dutch experience (except for the videos I'm still in the process of editing). We've been working very hard on our move to Memphis, TN and as a result, my blogging has really suffered. I really urge all readers to follow me on Twitter as I'm finding it much easier to micro-blog than sit down and write a full post at this particular time in my life. Anyway, without further ado, my impressions of Holland are:

1. The cost of living is really high in Europe even in a small city like Enschede. Say what you will about the value of the US dollar, but you can buy a whole lot more with it in the States than you can buy with a euro in the Netherlands. It doesn't completely translate to all EU countries because things in Paris seemed to be cheaper than things in Holland, but then again things in Dublin were even more expensive!

2. It took us a while to find affordable bikes (see #1) but once we did, I loved having them. Bicycles are the principle form of transportation for a lot of people in the Netherlands so the roads and trains have been designed to accommodate them. The bike lanes are extremely well designed, maintained and span most city streets. The only problem is that motorcycles are also allowed to use the lanes which to me defeats the entire purpose of having a separate path. It was very stressful to be riding along on your bike, minding your own business, when a motorcycle or scooter would roll up behind you and expect you to immediately get out of the way. Any form of transportation that requires a license plate should not be allowed to use paths specifically made for un-licensed bicycles!

3. The best place to visit in Europe for an American who only speaks one language has got to be the Netherlands. Everyone there speaks English so well that we abandoned our plans to learn Dutch due to a loss of motivation. I have to hand it to the Dutch, and a lot of Europeans for that matter. Despite what they might think of their English language skills, most speak our language more fluently than I will ever be able to speak any of theirs.

4. Dutch food is bland. Being from Cajun country probably stacks a lot of things against Holland right away, but in all honesty, I don't like really particularly spicy food. However, Dutch food is so bland, I used more Tony Chachere's and Slap Ya Mama in the seven months we were there than I've used over all the other years of my life combined.

5. For the most part, I liked not having a car. I was actually surprised by how many cars there were in Holland. Rail and bus travel is pretty convenient but not as efficient as having a car, especially in such a small country. I would like to think that rail travel would be possible in the US some day but only if they managed to run trains on schedule like the they do in the Netherlands.

6. I've always loved French Fries very much, especially with an enormous amount of Heinz ketchup. The fries in the Netherlands and around Europe are fantastic! However, in Holland, they eat them with mayonnaise. I don't even like putting mayo on my sandwiches let alone dipping fries in them. Ketchup was available but you usually have to pay for it and you hardly get any for the price. Then again, there's also curry sauce which is surprisingly good on a fresh batch of French fries.

7. The Dutch are very helpful people, but most of the ones that we met didn't seem as interested in become friends with foreigners. We were at an international school and we found that most of our friends were people from other countries. It seemed that the Dutch preferred to mostly be friends with other Dutch people. There are of course exceptions, but we really only had a few Dutch friends.

8. The Dutch have a much different idea of personal space than Americans. I didn't become fluent in Dutch but I was familiar with enough to know that when people ran into me at the market, they never said anything to apologize or excuse themselves. Not only that but I found that people waited too close to me in line and I was usually being stared at on the bus or train. I know there are cultural differences, but it's really hard to handle when someone tries to walk through you in a crowd.

9. Behold the power of cheese! I never knew that Dutch cheese would be so good when I found out that we would be traveling there. Not only do they have great cheese, but I learned that Gouda comes from the city of the same name! And it doesn't stop there. Some of our favorites from the cheese shops at the market were the pesto, walnut and tomato-basil cheeses. Worse yet, despite the higher cost of living (see #1) fine cheese was much cheaper in Holland than you can find it here in the States. I will miss the abundant cheese very much.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but those are the main things that come to mind as I've brainstormed this post. If I think of anything else, I'll certainly amend this blog, but honestly, I will probably be too busy with our impending move to Memphis to add anything anytime soon. All in all, I had a good time in Holland, although I am very happy to be back in the United States. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything, but I think the most important thing I learned is that I am an American boy through and through!