Well, a month later, and we are here and attempting to get settled!
Let's recap life over the last month...the movers came Dec. 17 and packed up our house and took it away. Still waiting to get it back...more on this later!
We went home for about a week and a half, visiting with family and friends-it was wonderful! We even managed to squeeze in our annual girls' Christmas party with all of the old crew--we had a blast. Brian and I split up Christmas, spending Christmas Eve and a bit of Christmas morning with his family and then all of Christmas Day with my family. We even got the wonderful surprise of a white Christmas! The next day, we headed out to visit our family in Missouri and Kansas. Well, not all of us...the Army had some miscommunication with us, and Brian had to report about 4 days earlier than expected to El Paso. This put us in a tough spot trying to decide if/how he could come with us to visit my extended family. After much logistics and plans A, B, C, D, and E, we decided the best option was just for him to stay in Huntsville for the following 3 days and then trek out to El Paso so that he could get there in time to check in on Jan. 2. I didn't like leaving him behind, but unfortunately it was really the only viable option. So we headed out of Alabama the morning of the 26th on icy, slushy roads...it took us 45 minutes to drive what normally takes about 15 minutes! Thankfully by the time we got to west Alabama it wasn't as cold, so the road conditions improved drastically. We picked Lindsay up in Memphis, and ended up doing lots of wedding talking the whole way and pretty much the whole week! I still can't believe my little brother is getting married...but I couldn't have picked a better bride! I love her! We spent the first 3 days at Gran and Grandad's farm in Missouri playing in the perfect snow and eating our hearts out. The wetlands even froze over so the kids and Uncle Paul went walking on the ice and "iceskating"...see Facebook for the video of Lindsay and I "iceskating"...it rivals Kristi Yamiguchi.
After Gran's house we headed to Joplin to visit our other grandparents and aunts and uncles. This is where we were introduced to quite possibly the most fun video game system ever...The Xbox Kinect. Your body is the controller. It is AWESOME. Uncle Chris always has some new game for us to play, and this year we had two; an "Adventure Games" one and then...DANCE CENTRAL. Can I just say that Emily, Lindsay, and I definitely beat the game? It took us about 3 hours and we were sweating pretty good afterwards but it was so. much. fun. Seriously, you should play this game. The adventure game makes you jump around and over/under things--prepare to get a work out! I was pouring sweat--it was so much fun! There was also a downhill skiing race...watching my dad/uncle compete in this was just about the most hilarious experience of the week--they were quite the athletes and extremely competitive!
After coming home from Missouri we had about 18 hours to turn around and get back into the car! Did some quick loads of laundry (yes, I am going on a month this weekend living out of a suitcase. I'm pretty tired of the 5 shirts and 4 pairs of jeans I could pack...) and then ended the night watching Avatar. Ok, if you have not seen this, you must watch it. I was a doubter when it first came out, but I love this movie! I've already watched it again-haha!
Monday morning, the 4th, Emily and I headed out on our great trek westward. Our own Oregon Trail, if you will. Emily thankfully didn't start school until this week, so she kindly volunteered to drive out with me and then Mom flew her back...thanks Mom :)
We ended the first day of driving in Jackson, MS and spent the evening with two of my old roommates, Krystina and Karen. Krystina just got ENGAGED so we talked lots of wedding, and Karen has been subbing (and just got a job) at the high school, so this left us with lots to talk about! I'm so glad I got to see them before I left the South!
The next day Emily and I drove about 8 hours, ending in Abilene, TX. I'm sorry to say, but Louisiana didn't do much for itself as we drove through...can't say I want to live there...This day actually wasn't so bad because we hit a big city about every 2 hours, which kept things interesting! A strange thing about east/middle of Texas...when you exit the interstate, you find yourself entering a road...but opposing traffic is coming towards you. It is quite strange. They're supposed to stop, but it's still a little scary!
Day 3 proved to be the day of funny signs and landmarks and not much else. We saw lots of humongous windmills outside of Abilene (Emily has pictures on Facebook of these!), and really smell and dirty looking oil refinery, and signs such as "Prison Area: Do not pick up hitch hikers". We also saw our first Border Patrolman! We also saw the border, but not the fence or the Rio Grande. Since being in EP though, I have seen both of those!
We arrived mid-afternoon to EP, and I can't say it was what I dreamed of...it's a really big town, something I'm not so used to. The population is around 600,000-700,000, and I promise you every building here is one of these colors: brown, taupe, rust. If the building is one of those colors, the roof is one of the other two options. You have an occasional bright orange or yellow building, but that's about it...It took awhile to get used to such a bleak landscape. Dad says it greens up during the spring/summer-I'm hoping so! The saving grace as far as landscape goes is that a good sized mountain range called the Franklin Mountains runs right through EP. They're beautiful against the bright blue sky!
We lived in "Army Lodging", aka converted barracks from probably the 30's, for about a week. Emily and I visited around 22-24 different rental apartments before deciding on one...it was exhausting and at times frustrating. I think I assumed it would be easier...I've gotten pretty familiar with a lot of roads here, but I still miss turns and get turned around frequently--hopefully this improves with time! The good news is I've seen about 15 high schools while driving around, so there could be some job opportunities! (For the record, there are 92 high schools within the EP city limits...crazy)
Brian and I signed the lease for our apartment on Saturday and got into it yesterday. Unfortunately, our stuff won't be arriving until next Thursday, so thanks to the Lending Closet on post and some dear friends who have a giant air mattress, we are able to "set up house" in the apartment until our goods arrive. The Lending Closet is a service on post that allows you to check out dishes, pots, pans, and other kitchen needs while you wait on your stuff. They also have other household items, but we only needed kitchen stuff. I packed a 9x13, some mixing bowls, and some cooking spoons but we needed a few more things in order to fix up some meals!
Overall, the transition has been OK. I think I had a more "romantic" picture of El Paso painted in my head, so at first I was a little disappointed. But, after reading a bunch of brochures, I have found some really neat cultural and community opportunities that I'm excited about checking out. And the mountains help...if they weren't here, I think I'd be pretty depressed...it's just strange that everything is flat, you can see for miles, and there are trees, but there not the trees we're used to...and they're aren't that many of them! It's also very dry here, which means my hair cooperates EVERYDAY. This is a miracle. It does mean though that I'm going through a lot more lotion!
We did get a new address and I'm planning on sending out a new address card as soon as things settle down, but if you need it sooner than that just let me know!
Brian got into his battalion this week and is enjoying the guys that he's working with. We should find out in a few weeks when they're deploying, so that's good! Right now he's in what's called the "S-3 Shop", which means he's helping with training for the entire battalion. I've been in contact with a few of the spouses from the battalion and I'm excited (and a little nervous!) about getting involved!
Hope everyone is doing well! Once internet is set up in the apartment and we get unpacked I'll share a little more about our new home!