Lone Star Love.
Texas isn’t a place I would ever really have chosen to come to. It just seemed like a really angry Australia to me. It’s all cowboys, Indians, rednecks, trucks and country music right? A Bar fight on the way back to the horse and carriage would be regular sight, and there would be ten-gallon hats coming out of the woodwork. So when I was walking around the Science Museum in leafy green Portland Oregon and I got a phone call basically saying ‘Erm, James, you’re off to Houston mate. All the best.’ I was slightly underwhelmed to say the least.
6 weeks in 113 degree heat and 90% Humidity later, here I still am on my ultimate week in the Lone Star State. And to be perfectly honest I’ve loved it. There have been cons – I probably worked more than I anticipated, and it’s been insanely hot. But the pros have far outweighed that. For starters, the skies here are some of the most beautiful in the world. Having no horizon or hills makes for a big gaping sky that’s filled with pastel colours and thick Simpson-style clouds. At night, the Stars are so close it feels like you could reach out and touch them.
The people here are probably some of the nicest I’ve ever come across in America. Everyone is helpful and friendly (They’re also armed to kill you – but we’ll come to that later). I’m yet to meet a Houstonian who won’t give it to you if you need it – and no, not like that, get your mind out of the gutter. The host families here have been absolutely amazing. I think I’ve put on a good 30 pounds from the food and drink I’ve been faced with. And even though we’ve worked double day camps and slept mostly in the middle, they’ve made our stay very welcome and helped us experience things in Texas I wouldn’t even have thought existed.
One of those things is a Honky Tonk. If you guys have never heard of one, this is something you need to experience once in your life. Then, keep it as a fond memory and drive right past it to the next club along. For those of you who don’t know – which I’m assuming is most – A Honky Tonk is a country music club, with a big wooden dance floor full of people two stepping in cowboy hats, shortly followed by line dancing to ‘The Wobble’. If you love being punched in the back by a guy with a feather in his hat, this is the place for you. (Edit: It’s also fantastic if you love cowboy boots and short shorts). In my opinion, they’re really fun to go to, but if you’re wearing a button-up Polo shirt and not a waistcoat, you definitely stick out like a sore thumb.
Texas is also a place where the ‘right to bear arms’ should be put as the slogan on the flag. Most houses I’ve been to have a gun, and you see shooting ranges almost as frequently as McDonald’s. This week, I got to shoot my first gun. Which was an absolutely amazing experience. I only got 20 rounds, but it was 20 rounds of pure unadulterated fun. That paper target got exactly what it deserved.
Minute Maid Park was also one of the highlights on my list. Despite the fact that the Astros are currently the baseball equivalent of Justin Bieber taking a foray in to the heavy metal scene, the game was actually a pretty fun experience. This was technically my second experience of baseball, but the park was absolutely stunning and the fact it was indoors also made it much more enjoyable. 4 innings were spent shouting ‘Barnes, give us a wave, Barnsey, Barnsey give us a wave‘ to the outfielder and ‘Just hit it, it’s not that hard’ because there was a slight lull in play. But I’d definitely do it again.
All in all, my experience of Houston has been really enjoyable and I’d recommend a visit to anyone. Just be prepared to sweat a lot and eat lots and lots of junk food. It’s also taught me to remain open to new places like I did when I first started traveling, because there’s always something to surprise you.
From here on out I’m not sure where I’m heading. We find out on a Friday, we go on a Sunday. All I know is that I’m in Burbank, California for the fall season and there is a 25-hour drive between me and there.
(I know a lot of my host family parents will read this – and not just the ones from Texas – but I’d like to thank every single one of you for making this experience possible so far, you’re all amazing people and if I can ever return the favour, don’t be afraid to ask).