Here I am: sitting at my kitchen table at a friend's bachelor pad (they have no furniture). I have just completed my first military DITY move and it was more work, more stress, and more devastating than I could have imagined. Exactly 7 days ago I ate at The Grove one last time, picked up my moving van and got this crazy process underway. I am not sure why I thought it would be easy. Sure, some of Jamie's co-workers were coming to help load furniture, but I still had to pack boxes, clean the house, run for the zoo, meet at UNM to work on data analysis, and do several last minute errands. Saturday flew by; I got all the heavy things in the truck and most of the boxes packed. I fell asleep on the therma-rest pad in less than 20 minutes and slept restlessly through most of the night. I woke up a couple times to nightmares of over sleeping and eventually woke around 6am to get back to packing. I packed and cleaned for a couple more hours before I rode my borrowed bicycle to zoo for the annual "Run for the Zoo and Walk With Us, Too!"
As always, my students were late and confused. I ended up only meeting 2 for the actual run/walk, but it was still a lovely way to enjoy the morning of my last full day in the town I had grown to love. I kept looking towards the mountains, trying to memorize their shape and contrast against sky. I memorized the rio grand and the elephants. I took in all these things I had seen over and over and committed them to memory, promising myself I would lose them. At the conclusion of the run/walk, I took off on the bicycle towards the university and Anapurna's for some soul sustaining vegetarian and ayurvedic grub. Kitchari was just what I needed. After nourishing myself, I headed across the street and got some data done. Analyzing data is like unwrapping a present. You are never quite sure what you will get, but sometimes there are pleasant surprises. No pleasant surprises yet, but there is still a lot of work to do. The scientist I have been working with did invite me to come back to do my doctoral work with her though; PhD in plant ecology? Maybe!
I cycled home at 5pm (later than planned), and Beth came over to help me pack and clean. This is when things really started to get crazy. Beth was such a huge help, I could never completely thank her, but I still didn't finish everything before I was completely exhausted. Again, I passed out on the therma-rest on the floor, but I think I fell asleep in less than 5 minutes for the first time all week.
I woke up the next day at 5am and started sprinting back and forth to the truck and running up and down the stairs frantically scrubbing, transporting, vacuuming, dusting, and sweeping. At about 7:30 it became apparent that I would not finish everything by my 9am checkout time. I called the housing office and they graciously informed me they could only push back the appointment if I drove to the office and changed the time in person. I am not sure how that could possibly be helpful in the midst of a move, but they were unwilling to negotiate. They sent their inspector to check on me at 9am, anyways, and alas, I was not finished. The inspector is short and stout. He has brown hair and brown eyes and looks as if he is afflicted with Down's syndrome, but he is not. He has strange mannerisms and a very judgmental glare. He walked into my house and appraised my work with a disapproving scan of the living room and a disappointed "so you really aren't ready, huh?" He drove back to the office and said he would try to squeeze me in for another appointment later in the day.
The little man parked in front of my house some 20 minutes later and waddled up to my front door to inform me that my new appointment was at 2pm. Great, thanks. I knew I did not need that much time, so I slowed my pace to just slightly frantic and kept working. After pulling the appliances away from the wall and sweeping behind them, dusting the tops of the cabinets, scrubbing the hard water lines in the toilets with a pumice stone, a lot of sweat, and a few tears, I felt like the house was ready for inspection. It was 11:30am.
So, I headed out for some errands before the inspection. I went to wally-world for a lock for the truck, pet-land for a 50lb bag of dog food, Salam Academy to drop off some grading, and Comcast to give them back the modem and router we haven't actually used in over a year. I also hit up Trader Joe's one last time for some lunch and road snacks. I got back to the house at 1:45, and snuck in some last minute dusting before the small, unfortunate looking inspector showed up again.
He looked displeased to be at my house again, but it is his job, so he was there. He around walked slowly, checking for dust by rubbing his stumpy fingers along surfaces as he went. I was so incredibly nervous; my stomach was tied in a knot in my chest and my heart was sucked up to my throat. It felt like a final exam; I had worked my tail off and this "walk-through" was what it all came down to: would I have to pay fines or not. I would. I was fined $20 for missing house keys, $30 for a broken set of blinds, $2 for an exterior light bulb being out, and $20 for not taking down all the light globes and cleaning their interior. The last couple fines he laid on me were what really angered me. During our first meeting several weeks ago, the little man told me that garbage could be left on the front lawn. I was appreciative, because this was actually convenient, and as I was moving, I bagged up garbage and put it on the front yard. On that final walk through, he told me that I would be charged $25 for the garbage and $25 for the recycling because it needed to be picked up prior to move out. Fifty dollars for garbage removal when he had told me it was ok to leave it? I was really mad. I packed all the garbage into my moving truck and my neighbor graciously took the recycling. I went to meet the man at the leasing office and sign the paperwork.
Despite the last minute relocation of my trash, the leasing agents still wanted me to pay the $50 because the trash was there during my appointment. I fought so hard I am actually a little embarrassed seeing as it was for $50, but I eventually won so perhaps it was worth it. With less than $100 of fines, I was finally leaving Kirtland Air Force base. I saved about $200 by doing a "self clean" (it is $300 to "pay and go"). I am not sure if the self-clean was the best option. It would have felt better if I did not have any fines, but if could have been worse, I suppose. I drove out the Wyoming gate for the last time.
I grabbed a Starbuck's iced coffee and I was officially on the road. It was 4pm. Driving east on I-40, I shed a tear as I passed through the Sandias, and then it was open road and crappy radio reception for a long time. Almost as soon as I passed into Texas, the deserts succeeded into grasslands and then trees started to appear. It was verifiably damp outside when I hit a raccoon with a huge thump and knocked the truck out of gear. I had no idea why the truck wouldn't go anymore. It was about 11pm in the middle of nowhere Texas, and my heart was beating loudly, pumping high levels of adrenaline throughout my system. All the possible outcomes of the truck breaking down then were spinning through my mind. I took a deep breath and looked past my shaky hands to my speedometer and watched it slowly reading lower and lower speeds: 45mph, 40mph, 35mph. But then, my gaze drifted just below the odometer and I noticed that the transmission was in Neutral. I shifted back to drive; the truck responded to the gas pedal and picked up speed. I took this as a sign that it was time to get off the road and pulled into the parking lot of the very first motel I spotted.
The motel was the only one for another 40 miles and I was scared they would not let me stay with Gnasher. So, I didn't mention my sweet little co-pilot and simply registered and drove over to my room. I let Gnasher out for a short, secretive walk and he did pee, but almost immediately after entering the room, he lifted his leg and marked the corner of the California King sized bed taking up most of the motel room. The bed was big enough that I just slept on the other side, but I really hope they was the sheets and blankets there!
The next day brought many more miles between Albuquerque and I. I made it to Dallas at lunchtime and visited with my Aunt Renee at her palatial Texas home and then drove on towards New Orleans. I made it to Baton Rouge and stayed at a pet friendly Motel 8 that Gnasher enjoyed much more than his first motel experience. The room was smaller and had laminate flooring, but most importantly, it was significantly quieter. The first room was next to a freight train line and very close to the highway. Every time a train or truck would speed by, Gnash's little head would perk up and he surveyed the situation for danger for several minutes before resting his head again. He was so anxious, I don't think he slept much that night, but, this night was a little better.
On to New Orleans! We woke up early and jumped in the truck to see Matt, my co-lead from last summer and his girlfriend, Brittany. I pulled up in front of his apartment about an hour and half later and we walked to a nice little breakfast joint, The Ruby Slipper Cafe. Along the way, Gnasher ate a crawfish shell and a shrimp tail, seeming to enjoy the local fare even if I was downright disgusted. At the restaurant, I was disappointed that there was butter in the grits and I became worried that this will continue to be a problem for me! I love grits and was looking forward to participating in the grits and everything traditions in my new home, but butter makes my belly upset. I had eggs and spinach and mushrooms instead with some delicious coffee and donated my decadent looking and certainly very buttery biscuit to Matt. After breakfast, Matt studied for his upcoming mega-medschool-test and I worked on my lesson plans for my upcoming summer trip to Thailand. It completely boggles my mind that Matt has been studying 8 hours a day for two months to take this test. That is a lot of studying.
When Matt was done studying for the day (I think he would have went a lot longer if I wasn't there), we went to Juan's Flying Burrito for dinner, which had a cute outside seating area on the sidewalk. The waitress was attentive and friendly and the green veggie burrito tasted virtuous and delicious. The guacamole was some of the best I've had, although the "green chile" was not green chile as I have come to know and love it. I am fearful that missing green chile will become a serious problem for me as life goes on in Georgia. We stopped by Angelo Brocato Ice Cream & Confectionary for dessert and I ordered some tangy raspberry and sweet mango sorbet. I was slightly rebuffed when I asked for chocolate chips and the sales girl quipped "we don't really do toppings here," but she was not as snotty as her comment and was easily forgiven. Matt and I walked back to his apartment with our frozen desserts and chatted about New Orleans and how it has changed. He pointed out spray painted x's on buildings and told me that in the four corners of the x you could find the date the building was searched, how many people were found, how many alive, and how many dead. It was a chilling reminder that the city went through a nightmarish tragedy and I tried to picture the streets and houses underwater as we continued on our way.
The next day, I continued on my way to Valdosta. I was excited to see Jamie and terrified at what I might find when I reached my new home. I was slightly relieved to leave New Orleans; there was a grittiness there that I had not encountered before and it made me feel uneasy. I arrived in Valdosta before dark and Jamie drove me over to our new house. It was exciting, even if I could only see the exterior for now. The house is on a beautiful piece of land and is blue with a red door. I just love it and I cannot wait to move in. For the next week, though, we will continue to stay on an air mattress on Jamie's coworker's floor.
The town is bigger than I expected and has many eating and shopping options. I am not sure what I will do for work yet and that remains the primary question about life in this biggish town surrounded by farms in all directions. Will I work? Will it be fulfilling? Will I be advancing my career and building my resume? Or, will I be frustrated and stunted? I think the work question will ultimately determine my experience here, but so far I am appreciating the green foliage everywhere I look, the morning dew and afternoon rain showers, and the sweet smells of green grass, hyacinths, and summer on the east coast in general.