Sunday, November 18, 2018

Unscripted: El Paso, Texas

The theme of this blog has always been the "unscripted" way life tends to happen.

You may, for example, be doing an RV trip to Mexico and all of the sudden life converges, and BAM, you settle down in El Paso. You know, theoretically.

That's what happened to us. I was dealing with Graves' disease, working part-time, homeschooling 3 kids, and nursing the baby while Ben was working on his doctorate, dealing with RV hauling/setting up/repair, and then got a job as a live-class ,online teacher.

Sounds fun, right? Know what's even more fun? Keeping the kids from going crazy in an RV while it's cold and rainy outside and your husband is teaching an online class and SERIOUSLY needs them to stay quiet. I'm sure most people would be great at this, ;) but for me it was a struggle.
Zoe enjoyed playing mini golf for her 2nd birthday.

Ben and I had previously looked at settling in El Paso because it checks a lot of boxes: bilingual/multilingual community, very close to Mexico, dual-language schools, cultural events, universities/colleges, fourth largest city in Texas, mild winters, decent cost of living... you get the point.
Elias is taking apart a lawnmower that doesn't work.

We arrived in El Paso after Ben got hired as an online teacher. My part-time contract job was complete soon after. As we discussed options for me to find another job, Ben decided it was time to enroll the kids in the dual-language program in El Paso so that I could also work teaching Spanish online. Within what felt like a week in November, everything fell into place: the kids started school, we found a house we loved with a yard we could rent, I was hired to teach online, and Ben found a church he liked. It felt like something had exploded, but, in a good way.

We were able to see family for winter break.

So, for now, and probably at least until Ben is done with his doctorate and gets settled with whatever he wants to DO with the doctorate afterwards, we are in El Paso, and it feels nice to be back in Texas after 9 years abroad. There are so many things that are new to us again: Libraries! Public parks! Supermarkets! Local phone calls! A working postal service! I think my favorite things so far have been my mailbox, backyard with grass, and a clothesline... and it's nice to be able to drive and see family when we need to, though it is a full day of driving. I love teaching Spanish!
Monkeys in the backyard...

We like that it's closer to Ben's dad, and that he drives through on business occasionally.
We have pecan trees!

My family jokes that we found the furthest possible place to still be in Texas but still be about 12 hours away from them. At least we're in a closer time zone, though. It's crazy how big Texas is!

I didn't have a 3 and a 7 for Ben's birthday, so I used a 4 and a 7...

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Choke Canyon State Park, RV Trip 2018

"Look Talia, a dragonfly!" except it ended up being 2 dragonflies copulating.

Before arriving in Choke Canyon, some important things happened that impacted our stay: On our way to Mississippi (or from? I don't remember now) to see Ben's family, we stopped in Louisiana. The place we stayed had a concrete pad, but with dirt and grass growing on top. This wouldn't have been a problem but for a couple of issues: The starter went out on the truck and it rained a lot. The truck was stuck on the marshy pad and there was nothing to do but for Ben to get under it and fix it. It was super tight and finicky for his beefy hands, but he got it replaced laying on his back in the marsh and after the sun went down and lighting wasn't great and it rained the whole time. The truck starting the next morning was a wonderful sound.
Choke Canyon Reservoir

Choke Canyon National Park is beautiful. It is in Calliham, near Three Rivers, Texas. We appreciated the many trails, showers with good water pressure and hot water, and the friendly staff. And that's just the surface. While we were here our truck messed up again, so we were pretty stuck in the park for almost a month. We used our bicycles to explore all of the trails and to check out the reservoir, basketball courts, and to spot wild animals.
Using downtime to knit my sister's birthday present

Ben thinks the foul conditions of the truck repair lead to a bolt not getting screwed in tight enough. Supposedly it wiggled loose in all of the travel and shorted out the computer. We ended up needing batteries as well. Not fun, but necessary. Because we were park hosts here, we were able to stay for free in exchange for Ben counting cars at differing hours each evening. This could have been extra expensive if we were also paying for a site. I'm thankful for the timing of the issue.
Elias at the basketball court

If you're going to be stuck somewhere, this is a great place to be, minus the distance from any sort of store. I was thankful I had things like lentils and rice in the pantry to cook with, but we really missed eggs for breakfast. Ben figured out how to order groceries from Jet, but still, eggs weren't an option. With the wild turkeys around the park we joked about finding some eggs scavenging, but I'm pretty sure that's a good way to get a fine.
Wild javelinas

The weather was really nice all the way up to the last week and a half that we were there, then it got really cold and rainy. That was the week the kids and I went to my parent's house for my cousin's wedding. It was really nice to be in the States when something like that happened so that we could be with family.
So many butterflies here

Walking on the trails, we saw trees covered in cocoons. They were everywhere. Of course, this meant there were also butterflies everywhere. One evening when we went to play on the badminton/tennis/basketball court they were so thick in the air we couldn't even throw the basketball or it would knock them down.
Butterfly-friendly flowers like Lantana have encouraged the many butterflies

One of the kids' favorite activities at the campsite was to have a bonfire and roast hotdogs and marshmallows. They would spend hours collecting twigs and trash from the campsites and burn it just to watch it disappear.
How to roast marshmallows without a stick

I was thankful we had invested in a RV washer. The downside of these campsites was the lack of sewer/gray water hookups. Instead, you needed a tank with wheels that would attach to a hitch to empty the tanks into, or else you'd have to take the whole camper to the dump station and empty the tanks. As the truck was in the shop and a fine of $500 was the penalty for dumping gray water on the ground, sometimes it was a challenge to keep them empty. Thankfully, since Ben was a park host, he was allowed to take some classes that let him drive a park vehicle: a gator and a van. This was really helpful. It also allowed him to not get eaten up by the millions of helicopter-sized mosquitoes that were thick in the air every evening when he went to count cars.
There's a lot of laundry with 6 people

While we enjoyed our time here, we all breathed a sigh of relief when we got the truck back and could travel to the next location.
Deer are abundant in this park