Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Portland to McLean: Culture Shock

Every time you move you have to get used to the new quirks of a place, those special little oddities that just like falling in love, can become the things you cherish most.

Portland has its virulent bikers, its oddball coffee shops and its fleece hoodies.

Virginia has...other things. Some of them make me smile, and some of them, like PDX's crazy bikers who occasionally take their verbal frustrations out on those of us who still rely on fossil fuels, might be an acquired taste.

Valet Parking: It's everywhere. At my gym. At the grocery store. Not a fancy grocery store, mind you, just the local Giant. But, in the event you can't be bothered to find a parking spot in the expansive parking lot, there is a team of valet parkers at the ready.

Culture: It's everywhere too. Our new town is a mishmash of people from all over the world. My son's new best friend, across the street, is the son of Lithuanian diplomats. You have no idea how long it took me to extract that information.

"Where did you say they were from?"
"Mom, I told you. He's from his country."
"Yes, but what is that country called?"
Yesterday I sent Child #2 over with cookies and he returned home bearing an enormous bar of Lithuanian chocolate. Mystery solved!

My husband, who is coaching Child #2's soccer team remarked there are at least five different languages spoken on the sidelines. "And I understand them all," added Child #2. "Okay, most of them," he amended when cross-examined on the verity of that particular statement.

Traffic: It's bad. The kind of bad that, after three weeks here, already has me studying Google Maps for alternate routes and planning trips at nonpeak hours.

Museums: Saturday afternoon we zipped into the city (nonpeak traffic hour).

Checked out the Lincoln Monument, walked the sad granite processional of names that is the Vietnam Memorial (made slightly surreal when I realized my children understood that war more from the Vietnamese perspective, after our recent visit to Vietnam, than they did from that of the American one) and ate BBQ to the accompaniment of live music.

We were home by 8:00, in plenty of time for kid bedtimes. "Can we just do that, go into the city and see cool stuff whenever we want?" my daughter asked.

"Yes, absolutely," I told her.

Like the DJ'd coffee shops and world class food carts that made me fall for Portland, I'm discovering this area's charms. Who knows...maybe I'll fall in love with McLean too.



Kristen Wixted said...

I'm so glad you're making the most of it! It is a great area. I lived in DC when I was in my 20's and weekend museum trips were the best part.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

There's a lot to see in the area. And yes, traffic sucks. Some of the worst in the world. Driving in DC is an adventure as you'll go for dozens of blocks and not be allowed to make a left turn anywhere. I think I made five traffic violations in as many minutes last time we were there, just trying to get to our destination.

Julie Flanders said...

I hope you do fall in love with it! I know the traffic is a nightmare around there but I don't doubt the area has a lot of charms too. I have to admit I can't imagine moving across the country! What an adventure for your family.

Weaver said...

What an adventure. Guess you just have to figure out the best times not to drive anywhere?

nutschell said...

wow sounds like a lovely area!
Nutschell said...

I've been to Virginia, close to DC - not sure what city. I liked it. I could do without the traffic and Valet parking everywhere, though. It sounds like a fun and interesting change for your family. You're already benefiting from the writing fodder.


Lisa Gail Green said...

There certainly is a lot to do over there! You won't be bored. :D

Dianne K. Salerni said...

"He's from his country."

Snort, snort, giggle.

And yet, that's probably all kids need to know. For a long time, they are so refreshingly accepting of everyone.

I hope you come to love your new home, but the traffic would be a BIG obstacle to love for me. Aggressive drivers make me want to flee to the country.

Joanne Noragon said...

The kids will be fine; have fun keeping up with them.

M Pax said...

We moved the other way, from VA to PDX. Everything in the DC area is political. Everything.

There's a lot to see and do there. But I prefer the more laid back left coast. :)

Neurotic Workaholic said...

McClean sounds interesting, and Lithuanian chocolate sounds pretty good too. And I like any place that has valet parking, especially since I always make a nervous screeching sound whenever I try to park.

A Beer for the Shower said...

Sounds like quite the interesting place to live. I can't imagine valeting everywhere I go. Who, other than a stripper, carries that many singles?

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

Very interesting. I've lived in the same small town basically my whole life, so I've never had this experience.

Marjorie DeLuca said...

Wow this is a huge move! It must be exhausting with things like new schools and everything!

Ella said...

You will-it takes time! I bet traffic is a bear~ There is good and bad everywhere and you will find some fabulous nooks-keep searching!

I have moved so much I should have a tattoo-professional mover. I don't want a tattoo-so instead maybe I will write a book~ :D