Friday, July 30, 2010

Getting Oriented (in, oh, so many ways)

Today marks the end of our first week in Phoenix -- and what a week it was...

We were able to get our power turned on (finally!) early Tuesday afternoon, only to discover that the AC in our unit wasn't functioning very well -- or at all. Two repairmen struggled with the unit for about two hours on Tuesday night to no avail. Joe and I decided to purchase a small window AC unit for the bedroom that night, and brave sleeping in our own bed for the first time in nearly a week. An AC technician arrived (sent by my horrifyingly apologetic property manager who had been dealing with the crisis since day one) around 11:00 AM, and by noon we finally felt the sweet, sweet kiss of artificially cooled air. Since the power company had yet to hook up the meter to our power box, we indulged and cranked our thermostat down to 64 in order to get a jump start on the whole "cooling" process. We've been enjoying a wonderful, steady 72 degrees for the last two days. Oh, what a difference a temperature change makes to soothe a cranky graduate student and her long-suffering husband.

All this angst comes from moving to Phoenix during what the locals call "monsoon season." I didn't know Arizona was susceptible to monsoons. I don't like monsoon season. Monsoon season, roughly translated for those of you who are not here, means that you feel as though you may explode from the sudden rush of heat that meets you when you leave an air conditioned building, but you feel assured that the oppressive humidity would quench the fire before it did too much damage. For the last two evenings, we've watched the sky turn all shades of gray, black, and purple, before unleashing some scary windy conditions and downpours that left our parking lot looking like a small lake in the morning. Locals have assured us that this year is the worst monsoon season they've seen in a while, although I'm not sure if this statement is made to comfort us with the possibility that next year will be better, or to make us feel somehow foolish for our decision to move to Phoenix during the most uncomfortable month of the year. I choose to think it is the former...

We've slowly but surely been working to put things away in our new house. Joe and I have each snagged a guest room as "offices." Although this townhome isn't much bigger than our house in IF, it seems to be laid out more efficiently, and has plenty of storage space. Oddly enough, we have our first "upstairs" of our married life, and our new bedroom is bigger than any we've had. I can't wait until it cools down a bit so that I can get to work on our little yard area just off our patio doors.

I started my new TA orientation at ASU yesterday. I had nervous tummy all the way to campus -- running over all the scenarios in my mind. What if no one liked me? What if I said something inadvertently offensive during the first class? What if it was discovered that I was a horrible teacher and I was ousted to the curb in a hail of garbage? Fortunately, none of this happened. Yet. Most of the TAs in the class are new to the area as well, so griping about the heat became one of the most common conversation starters throughout the day. Everyone was friendly and outgoing, and I heard some of the most refreshing conversations about teaching that I've heard in a long time due to the mix of experienced and new instructors in the group. I was also able to begin networking with two of my new fellow Renaissance scholars (I felt a little like I was pledging a gang), and have enjoyed nerdily lunching with them for the last two days, indulging our pretentiousness with academic glee. They even offered to take me out for a small-ish birthday celebration tomorrow!

Surprisingly enough, I'm starting to feel right at home here in Phoenix. (I thought it would take much longer.) My colleagues in the English department that I've met so far seem friendly, approachable, and down-to-earth. I've met people from as varied locations as Bosnia and Thailand. Many of the students in my group have spent years teaching English abroad, and hearing of their experiences doing so is fascinating. I'm enjoying the fact that Tempe (and the students I've met so far) seem like they have big-city tastes with smaller-town sensibilities. Everyone seems to appreciate the laid-back atmosphere that the area has to offer, and I look forward to socializing with many of them for the next five years!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Still Hot -- Still Unimpressed -- But Looking Forward to Tomorrow!

Here I sit -- in my mother's last-minute Tempe hotel room that she has been gracious enough to share with Joe, Bueller, and myself to save us the fifteen-minute commute to our landlord's "nice" hotel in Mesa. (I dispute the term, but whatevs...)

The last two days have been hectic. We've been productive, but less so than I would have liked. Our power remains off due to, get this, a missing clip on the bottom of the meter box that has already been replaced with a latch higher up on same box. Since Phoenix is like any other municipality, city offices were closed today and yesterday, so all our hopes rest on getting our power finally turned on tomorrow. (I am currently crossing all appendages that are capable of being crossed.) Working strategically in the heat (early in the day, evening, and with lots of water), we've managed to completely empty the Budget truck and return it. Of course -- we had to return it sans the tow dolly. In his excitement to be rid of the behemoth truck and get our $150 deposit back, Joe inadvertently ran over the tow dolly (stowed safely under the truck) as he was attempting to maneuver the same truck into position to hook up that very same dolly. Crunch. Good-bye, deposit! At this point, all concerned say "thank goodness" for the insurance we purchased with Budget before leaving IF. We did, however, make peace with the lost deposit.

Although this move has been extraordinarily frustrating so far (and, really, aren't all moves in some capacity?), I don't mean to say that it hasn't been without its perks. All our belongings are safely in our new townhouse (Joe likes to call it a "townhouse," so I do...), including the bulky furniture which was moved in today. Mom, Joe, and I got most of the kitchen put away, and anticipate that when (if) the power gets turned on tomorrow, we should be able to make significant headway into putting the rest of the townhouse together. I look forward to sleeping in my own bed again, surrounded by (as George Carlin would say) my "shit" more than even I can fathom at this point.

Joe starts work at his new store tomorrow. We were met with a surprise regarding his job on Thursday, however -- a good surprise! While he had originally been told that he would be an overnight assistant, circumstances at the store had changed, and Joe will actually be on days instead -- three on, three off, 8 AM to 8 PM.

Since it's often too hot during the middle of the day to continue working at the apartment, and we world-weary travelers three are afraid of falling asleep if we linger on comfy beds in our air conditioned hotel room, we've spent much of the last two days exploring the area Joe and I now call "home." Tempe should prove to be a fun, vibrant, and interesting town in which to live. International cuisines abound -- middle eastern, Thai, Indian, Russian -- you name it, we've probably got it. Joe and I have already fallen in love with our local Trader Joe's (finally -- we can get fingerling potatoes and microgreens!) and Ikea. I look forward to stocking my home with pretentious foodstuffs and affordable Swedish modular furniture. A trip to the Arizona Mills Mall a mere five minutes from our home had me ecstatically attempting to slip my foot into an honest-to-God size-11 Manolo Blahnik strappy sandal ($398, marked down from $500 -- Carrie would have been so proud). If anything, this proves that cute, fashionable shoes will be much easier to find in Tempe. Huzzah!

I also caught my first glimpse of my new campus yesterday, and I was stunned! What a beautiful setting in which to work! The campus is immaculately maintained and manicured, and is absolutely breathtaking. I saw a sliver of my building, and drove by the building with my classroom for fall. I can't wait to explore all that ASU has to offer!

Oh, and Wal-Marts here sell liquor. That is probably the best thing about Tempe.

More updates and pictures soon!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Day One -- Hot and Unimpressed

We arrived in Phoenix today shortly after noon after a short, but beautiful, ride from Flagstaff where we spent the previous night in one of the most horrifically shoddy hotels I'd seen in a long, long time. (These hotels are instantly recognizable by the urge to put surgical booties on your, your family's, and your pet's feet before allowing them to walk around "barefoot" on the floor.) We arrived at our new home, and were pleasantly surprised both with the apartment and the area given that we'd rented sight-unseen. I had called on Thursday from a muggy truckstop in Payson, UT to set up our power account for the day of our arrival. Upon completing said arrival, however, we were disappointed to discover that the power wasn't turned on, and that some sort of dispute over work completed by a contractor nearly two months prior, the power company had failed to find the job completed in a satisfactory fashion, and would not turn on the power until one of their inspectors was satisfied. Despite frantic calls from both myself and our harried property manager contact, the power remains off at this very hour.

Joe and I managed to move most of our things into the house (larger furniture aside) despite the crippling heat made even heat-ier due to the change in elevation to which we are still adjusting. Since our central air is, unfortunately, not gumption-powered, we took frequent breaks to sit in our air-conditioned car and drink loads of water. We're hoping to rejoin the twenty-first century tomorrow, though! An additional bonus to the change in elevation seems to be that Joe's trademark asthmatic wheeze was nowhere to be found today, even after several hours of lugging all our worldly possessions around.

Beyond the initial disappointment of being unable to wake up in my own bed tomorrow (my landlord owns a hotel and is putting us up until the matter is resolved), I think I'm going to like it here. It will certainly be an adjustment simply to get used to the amount of people and the pacing, although the interstates that run through Phoenix are no where near as scary as those through Salt Lake. I'm excited by the variety offered up by the Phoenix-area food scene, complete with several Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants. (I heart falafel.) We have World Market, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods at our disposal. (I heart cheap, classy decor and groceries I can't find in Idaho Falls, ID.) My mother arrives early tomorrow morning to help get us set up, and undoubtedly to scrutinize our choice of living arrangements, but she assures me that's just what mothers do. I hope to have the townhouse somewhat put together in the next few days, and will post pictures then.

The questionable hotel mattress is calling to me -- begging me to give it a rest already. And I can't say that I disagree. Bed sounds good. My bed sounds better, but this one will do for now.

And so it begins...

Perhaps it was the fact that it was the tail end of fourteen hours on the road -- straight. Perhaps it was the fact that he was giddy from sleep deprivation and dehydration wrought by a nasty bout of food poisoning. Perhaps it was the fact that we had just watched Julie & Julia a mere two nights before, and he was inspired by the story of one woman's blog becoming an international sensation and inspiring lucrative book deals and high-grossing films. At any rate, this amazing confluence of circumstances in my husband's mind led him to turn to me in the noisy cab of our rented moving truck last night and say, "Hey! Maybe you should write a blog about your experiences while you're working on your PhD!"

I p-shawed heartily at the suggestion. I've long been remiss in committing my emotions and experiences to posterity -- mainly because they're not very exciting. I kept painstakingly detailed journals throughout most of my teen years, but more or less stopped once I got married. A recent examination of these relics of my adolescence revealed that I seemed, at the time, to have a preternatural fascination with drama class, my never-quite-resolved crush on Jim Carrey, and things my little brother did to annoy me. What could I possibly have to say now to compare with such scintillating reading?

After the initial p-shawing passed, I began to realize that the idea might have merit after all. I resolved to attempt to keep a blog documenting my time here in Arizona for a few reasons which I find terribly important, and I hope you will agree.

1) To force myself to think intently about what experiences I have here and their relationship to the larger experience. i.e. What is blog-worthy and what isn't in this context? For instance, if the option to blog comes up at the end of the day, will I write about the interesting teaching experience or research revelation, the disappointing lunchtime chalupa, or both? (I have the sneaking suspicion, however, that most of the initial posts will detail varied levels of "freak-out"-itude relating to the inevitable culture shock I am already beginning to experience).

2) To create a space wherein my friends and family can keep updated about my experiences here if they're interested, and a place in which I can say mean things about them if they're not.

3) To create documentation of what will be, undoubtedly, a very important time in my life.

I am currently taking title suggestions, by the way. The current one is awful, I know -- but "The Bob Loblaw Law Blog" was already taken. Sheesh.