Moving from one city to another takes some effort, moving to another country and continent even more so. I love learning about new places and cultures (yes, Texas has a culture the way that Mumbai has!) which makes the stress worthwhile and will continue to move around.
Over the years, I have learned that I take about three months to settle in properly. I found this out after two separate three month work trips I took in the 1990s. The first month in New York City I was just overwhelmed by the architecture, the people, the transport system, the lights and a new definition of what is normal. That was having come from London, which on the surface is also full of people, relies on public transport a lot, has bright lights and fantastic buildings.
The second month, I felt a bit more confident. I had established the routine to get to and from work, places and faces became familiar and I knew what train to take on the Subway. The Subway experience taught me that, unlike in London’s tube, multiple lines use the same platforms in New York. I suddenly realised why people had been asking me ‘is this train the Central Line?’, when the whole platform was accented in red. To me it was obvious that each line used its own platforms on which its colour runs in a line along the top of the wall. Why was I being asked whether this train was for that line – they all were? Not in New York.
I also found the deli on the corner for a cheap take-home dinner and the sushi-bar round the block where I had dinner out, sitting at the bar watching sushi being created for other patrons. I never saw another non-Oriental person in that sushi bar, and I started going there once a week.
In the third month, I started putting feelers out for things which were a bit further from home. Not just the immediate neighbourhood, but exploring Battery Park, getting the ferry over to Liberty Island and take this picture with a friend of the twin towers of the World Trade Centre.
This and a similar experience in Zurich taught me that in future I wanted to go for longer than three months. To get the most out of any overseas assignment, I wanted to settle in, get comfortable and then really start exploring for more than a month. I tentatively asked for a longer posting to India and got a six month exchange, resulting in these travel tales. The South African jaunt had no agreed end date, rather a business outcome goal, again enabling exploration and travel tales.
Now that I have been in Houston three and a half months, I’m very pleased to say that I have put all those learnings into practice and have now settled in. Last week I even behaved like a Houstonian and spoke to a stranger on the street about the awkwardness of him carrying a mattress while riding a bicycle. The random-stranger-talking-to-me occurrences in this city unsettled me at first, although they were harmless comments on the mohawk or bright colours of my clothes. Now I am doing it myself!