Thursday, September 22, 2005

Travel Diary 4: Waking up in America

Thank you to everyone who has made encouraging and interesting comments in response to my previous blog post (Travel Diary 3: Arrival in North Carolina). With eleven comments, this is the second most commented upon post I've had here in over two years (and the most popular was my first announcing that I was going to move to America), which suggests that many do not mind the odd personal post that strays from the academic New Testament theme of the blog. I suppose that those who do mind can simply scroll on. And of course the travel diary is kind of relevant because my reason for being here is a move to a new post connected with the NT. Enough apology, more travel diary.

This morning we woke up in America. Jet lag doesn't affect me as badly as it seems to for many, perhaps because I have the gift of being able to sleep any time, anywhere, including when it is not particularly convenient or complimentary to others, e.g. during conference papers or church sermons. Our hotel provides a very small continental breakfast, which was essentially coffee and a bagel. I didn't get time for anything else until tonight, so was grateful for it.

The next few hours were a disaster. I tried to drive to Duke and got horribly lost. I must have driven 70 or 80 miles with multiple wrong turns. It is partly that I find it tough to navigate alone and partly that the roads are just not intuitive to a / this particular Brit. I missed my 9 a.m. appointment as a result, and only just made my 11 a.m. one. There are lots of things to do before I can be added to the payroll, let alone open a bank account or get a mortgage, but at least I am now on the road to these things. The key that will unlock many of these doors is the Social Security Number, but I am not allowed to apply for this until I have been in the country for ten days. I am hoping that it will come quickly after that point, not least because our house purchase will depend on it. And it was because of that that I had to drive back to North East Raleigh, where we are staying, in time to get to our realtor and mortgage advisor in Cary by 2. I managed the drive back from Duke this time in 45 minutes rather than 2 hours and felt an enormous sense of achievement. I didn't go wrong once. So I can do it -- I can master this extroardinary road system without getting lost or taking multiple wrong turns.

One of the pleasant surprises is just how warm it is in late September in North Carolina. It was 88F today, as hot as you'll ever get it on the best summer's days in the UK. Apparently 92 tomorrow. Now I can see why air conditioning is so important in American (or this part of American) cars and houses.

The day's second biggest challenge, after trying to drive to Duke without getting lost, was navigating our way round an enormous supermarket. I don't think I've ever been to a supermarket in the US before. We found one called Harold Teeter, I think. I have been keen to get lots of fresh fruit and salad and yoghurt because it is so easy to be eating all the wrong things when one goes out to eat here, and I was first delighted and then flummoxed to see the choice. But we now have lots of nice fresh ingredients and I feel better for having had the chance to buy and then prepare a good meal, including salad, seafood, fruit, soya yoghurt, chased down with some fine American beer (Sam Adams' Octoberfest). The quality and choice was simply fantastic at the supermarket, and it is something I will look forward to getting into in the coming months and years -- food and drink shopping is one of my favourite activities, and cooking and preparing food too. Price-wise, I thought Teeter's was on the expensive side. Even with the current good (for Brits) exchange rate, prices were coming out a little higher than the British equivalent (e.g $1.99 for an avocado), which surprised me given the much-hyped lower cost of living here. Perhaps it was just that supermarket. As with all these aspects of this adventure, I look forward to finding out how far these reflections change.

Once I've waded through the email backlog (one always builds up when I travel), I promise to get back to some proper, traditional NT Gateway blogging.


J. B. Hood said...

We do like the personal comments, Mark, but the sad truth is that I simply know far more about food than I do the New Testament, and I don't expect that to change as I progress as a postgrad! (Although Jim apparently knows more about many things than food, if he's recommending Appleby's!;)

Michael Pahl said...

Mark, I'm enjoying the commentary, but it leaves me with one question: Where are the pictures? :-)

Anonymous said...

I can identify with your getting lost in the Durham area, as that town is by far the most confusing town I have ever lived in. (Main Street on the west side is an east-going one way street, and on the east side a west-going one way street. It's like something from Dr. Seuss!)

Dr. Joseph Ray Cathey said...


A few things - Yes air conditioner is a necessity in the south. Here in Fort Worth, TX it often gets up to 100-103F in the summer months of July-August. Remember that in Texas you can use a seat belt metal clip as a branding iron in the summer months. If you get a chance to go to a Central Market (I am not sure that they have them where you are) they import a huge ammount of food items from England. Likewise, I recommend getting either Direct TV or Dish Network TV as these companies have access to a wide varitey of English television.

Best to You

Alan Bandy said...

I have enjoyed your travel log with sheer delight. Reading about your trip to Duke brought back many memories of my first trip to Duke from Wake Forest to use the outstanding library there. You will enjoy living in Cary, it is a very nice area. Harris Teeters is considered a more high-end market, you might try Kroger's, SuperLowes, or Food Lion. Most of all, welcome to North Carolina (if you get a chance check out the Outer Banks).

Jim said...

I had my taste buds destroyed by the Army JB (in my own defence)(note the British spelling for Mark).

crystal said...

It is fun to read the occassional personal posts - I can't really comment intelligently on the NT. I hope you get the chance to visit Californai someday ... some nice schools, Felix Just is out here, and the grocery stores will amaze you :-)

Sharad Yadav said...

I agree with michael -- I'd have espeically appreciated some pictures of you after a few wrong turns on the way to Duke. It's a great opportunity to compare the size of the veins in our head!