We had planned to be in Houston another couple of years, but Richard’s MBA opportunity at CSULB was reason enough to move back a few years earlier than planned. As happy as I am to move back home to be near family, there are definitely plenty of things I will miss about Houston. Here are the top 10.
#10.) The Galleria and the Water Wall – In the 2 years I have been in Houston, I have probably been to the Galleria Mall about 10 times. I definitely did not take advantage of shopping at one of the biggest malls in the country (probably because South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa is bigger), but I wish I would have. The Galleria is huge, but it doesn’t have a Forever 21…I never understood that. I was just about finished memorizing the layout of the Galleria, and then we had to move. I like the Galleria’s features more than I like the shopping sometimes. It has an ice skating rink which is fun to people watch, a vibrant food court, two sections of the mall to easily crossover, easy parking, and my favorite: the nearby water wall.
#9.) The Crazy Weather and Summer Nights- Okay, so I know the humidity is not something both Richard and I would miss. That is probably the highlight of moving back to California, getting away from the intense humidity. I will miss the unexpected weather though. The crazy showers and thunder and lightning storms are actually nice if you are indoors. The weather at night is especially great in Houston. Unlike in California where nights usually require a light jacket, Houstonian nights are usually windless.
#8.) Hipster and Eclectic Vibes of Montrose, MidTown, Rice Military, and The Heights - Okay so I guess there isn’t one neighborhood in Houston that is complete hipster, but driving around the 610 loop, you are sure to see some one of a kind stores and restaurants. Montrose is vibrant and has a large artist and LGBT community. I love exploring the area because of its unique shops, cafes, and cottages. It is also a great walking area. MidTown has some of the best nightlife in my opinion, and The Heights has tons of houses and streets worth driving through that all have a distinct look. Lastly, Rice Military has the beer can house which is definitely worth a visit.
#7.) Rodeo and concerts – Although we only went to the Rodeo once, we had a blast, and the concerts in Houston are plentiful. Southern California has one of the best music scenes in the world. We have numerous venues in Orange County and San Diego and even more in Los Angeles. What I will miss most about the Houston concerts is the organization and traffic time. The Toyota Center and Reliant Park have incredibly quick traffic time compared to Los Angeles or Orange County venues. We could leave from a concert and be back in 20 minutes from the time we leave the concert doors in Houston. In Los Angeles, it is a solid hour+ to get back home. I remember being stuck in traffic for 2 hours coming from a show at The Hollywood Bowl. SoCal traffic, I am not excited to see you.
#6.) Houstonian Cuisine – There are so many unique places to eat in Houston. Houston’s diversity contribute to its plethora of options for food. (I would’ve included some photos from my favorite eateries…but I couldn’t choose just a few…)
#5.) Nearby Nightlife – Driving into Downtown Fullerton/Long Beach will get you some bars, but a good night club is quite a drive. LA nightlife is a good 30-45 minute drive from Anaheim, and it isn’t always what it is cracked up to be. Houston has dueling piano bars, unique small pubs, and bars hopping that make DT Fullerton look like a bore. Its parking and vicinity give it a great appeal too compared to SoCal establishments.
#4.) TFA Corps – I moved here for the corps, and I will genuinely miss it. Although I usually liked working independently, it was nice having support anytime I needed it. I might not have been the biggest fan of All Corps Events on a Saturday, but I loved being able to reconnect with others in Houston who I rarely saw and get updated on our region.
#3.) Southern Hospitality – Not once, but 9 times since I have been here, strangers have rolled down their windows to let me know that it looked like my tires were low on air pressure. Indeed, they were. I always heard people are nicer in the South, and I always assumed that there are nice and mean people everywhere…I was wrong. The ratio of nice to mean people in the South is significantly greater than in LA. Not all, but the majority of people are genuinely nice in Houston and say “Good Morning” and “Have a great day” to strangers passing by, when they aren’t even at a customer service establishment! On the street, they’ll say that!
#2.) My Students – The last day of school was a bittersweet. Last year, I said goodbye to my students, knowing that I could still see them in Houston. I could visit their high school, and I saw students visit me throughout the year to update me on their lives. This year, saying good-bye on the last day of school was a bit harder… I am so blessed that I had the opportunity to work with such diverse students. I learned a lot from them. There were some refugee students from Myanmar, Nepal, Sierra Leon, and Congo that had more drive for learning than I have ever seen. I also taught some students this year who had a different perspective on education, but I was able to see them change attitudes as they got engrossed in The Hunger Games and learning about the Holocaust. I will never forget them. They all are good-hearted kids that I hope stay on the right track in high school.
#1.) Life-long friends – When people study abroad, they say it changes you. Whether or not you study abroad for a summer, semester, or year, the friends you make there have a special bond with you. Some of those will be your life long friends. Teach for America is similar in that it is a brand new experience and in a new location, that you are experiencing with others. I have made a lot of friends over these past 2 years, and a select few I know will be life-long friends. We have endured so much together these past 2 years, and I will miss them most.