Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I got up very early on my first day in Austin. I couldn't sleep well on the bus, so I went to bed almost as soon as I got in, but as usual, I can't sleep more than 8 or 9 hours.

In the morning, I looked at a cooking school and visited the local comic shop. In the afternoon, I visited the University of Texas and another cooking school. I left UT with a far most positive feeling than I left the University of Illinois. It seems like a place that I could spend my time.

That evening, I had dinner with a friend I know only named Rod and his wife, Rachel. They were a great couple, gave me some great advice about what to see in the city, and generally, made me want to live here even more.

Today, I saw the last cooking school (briefly) and then headed to see a movie at the famed Alamo Drafthouse. Generally, you're told to show up for the movie about 45 minutes early here. The reason why is that they forgo regular ads and trailers, but instead show various other kinds of entertainment before the film: short films related to the movie, funny clips, classic trailers from old movies, and various other things. You can actually order food from your seat (I just got some chips and salsa), and the theater serves a whole selection of beers and wines (which I chose not to partake in). It was by far my best movie going experience and wasn't any more expensive than a regular theater. I highly recommend it for anyone passing through Austin.

Which brings me to now. I'm sitting back in my hotel room, missing my wife, and wondering what to have for dinner. I leave for Phoenix in the morning, where I'll meet up with Damian and visit Arizona State University before heading to Tijuana and San Diego then back to Phoenix on Friday evening.


Indy to Austin

The bus trip started off bad and then remained about the same for the 27-hour-long trip. Even getting on the bus was a hassle, a hassle observed by Mom, Dad, Toby, Heather and Rachel as they stood off to the side and waited 15 minutes for me to board. The first leg was from Indy to Louisville and then on to Nashville. The people on the bus were very different than the people you see on airplanes. There was an Amish family, several people using plastic grocery bags as suitcases, and an unproportionally large amount of Spanish spoken. The bus itself had seen better days. The windows were scratched. The barrier behind the driver was covered in residue left by duct tape. The floors were sticky and worn. During my first leg, we remained about 15 minutes behind schedule. This was relatively close to our actual schedule, I'd find. Most of my other buses left much later than their scheduled times.

In both Louisville and Nashville, I wanted to get out and look around, but time simply did not allow for it. Both of them seemed like very nice cities. I had images in my mind of them as being fairly small and run-down, but this didn't appear to be the case at all.

The next leg of the trip was the longest. I left Nashville for Dallas, hitting Memphis, Little Rock, and various other little stops along the way. Most of this trip was at night, which made the time pass slower. One thing I love about taking the bus is simply looking out the window, but at night, the windows don't have much to show except headlights and road.

The person sitting next to me liked to spread out in his sleep, slowly reducing my seat space between Memphis and Little Rock. Hoping to be able to sit alone, I changed seats in Arkansas, but the bus was booked full, and I ended up with another buddy. This one was better than the first, though, and allowed me a little sleep.

I got into Dallas late, of course, and had only about 40 minutes to look around before boarding my next bus. Dallas, too, seemed like a nice city and one that I wish I could have looked around more. Perhaps another time.

The last bus I boarded took me to Austin. The scenery in Texas is different than the Midwest, but surprisingly not as different as I had imaged. I spent the 4 hours from Austin to Dallas anxious to get off the bus. I found reading difficult, so I listened to an audio book and stared out the window.

It was 100 degrees when I got off the bus in Austin, but people are right when they talk about the "dry heat." The lack of humidity makes the heat seem bearable. While Busan isn't as hot as Austin, it's actually far more uncomfortable because of the humidity. My biggest fear of living in Austin doesn't seem that bad.

I took a taxi to the Airport and then headed back to my hotel. The next day, I'd start my real tour of the city.


Chicago to Indy

I got into Chicago in the early morning after a long flight. Aside from my usual Chicago stuff, I checked out two cooking schools and the University of Illinois that first day. The cooking schools seemed great, but I left UI feeling unsure about my choice of the school. Everything I liked about their program was being reduced or eliminated. There were two more cooking schools the next day (and one that I wasn't able to see) and then a haircut and "hand detailing" (read manicure) before Alissa and Mom met up with me in the evening. The following day, the three of us enjoyed the city together and then headed back to Fort Wayne.

Aside from seeing family and friends, there were two major events in the Fort before heading out: I ran a triathlon and took the GRE. I was happy with the results on both. I finished the triathlon (a sprint tri, meaning 400 meters swimming, 20 kilometers biking, and 5 kilometers running. That's a quarter mile, 12.4 miles, and 3.1 miles for those of you that are metrically impaired) in just over an hour and twenty minutes. The GRE was only 4 days later, and I did well on that too. I got a 650 on the verbal portion (the 92nd percentile) and a 750 on the quantitative (84th percentile). I'll find out my writing score in a week or so, but I felt very good about that portion of the test, so I'm expecting good things.

Every time I go back to Fort Wayne, I regain a little of my affection for it. I liken it to moving out of your parents' house: while you're there, you hate it, but after you're gone, you're always happy to go back. Our careers will probably keep Hye Sook and I from ever living there, but it's a nice place to visit, and there are certainly worse places I could have ended up. In a perfect world, I'd be able to spend my summers back home. We'll see.

Of course, the best thing about being back is spending time with my family. I genuinely enjoy their company, and I can honestly say that I think I'd be friends with all of them even if they weren't related to me. Mom is a sweetheart and a wonderful woman. She's definitely my mom, but she's also one of my best friends. Alissa is fun to be around and seems to be really growing up. Danielle is more like me than I ever realized. And Dad and I's relationship has come a long way since my high school days. I hate to be living far away from them, but there's so much I want to do in my life that I just can't do in Fort Wayne.

The only down side of being in Fort Wayne is being away from Hye Sook. I've been video chatting with her every other day and emailing all the time, but it's just not the same. The distance seems even farther now that I'm away from my family too. As I write this, however, it's just 4 more days until I pick her up at the airport in Phoenix. I think I can make it.

I left Fort Wayne on July 17th bound for Indy to see Toby, Heather, and their new baby, Rachel. I always forget how easy being around Toby is. While we're very different people, we have enough in common that there's never a break in conversation. I always get dumber around him (in a silly, good way), but I also get funnier.

On the 18th, I spend the day with Mom, Dad, and Toby's family. Then in the afternoon, I boarded a bus for Austin, Texas, and the next leg of my journey.