It's been a year. A year since we moved to the Phoenix area to start over, chase our career dreams, and make a new life for ourselves. That hot, dark night in August...where we stood on our new doorstep at 1am frantically trying to turn the electricity on, where we fell into our sleeping bags upstairs, trying to let sleep take us when the inside temperature was a sweltering 95 degrees... It seems like yesterday, but then it seems like so far away when I think of all that has gone on in our lives since then. Classes done, friends made, mountains hiked, cities explored, things learned. We have learned a lot this past year, about ourselves, each other, and the journey of life...but what I wanted to tell today is what we have learned about Arizona. So here is my top 10 list of things I've learned about AZ!
10. Everyone knows Arizona is hot. But nothing could have prepared me for the oppression that summer brings. It starts in late May and goes through October. That's right--last year Halloween weekend was the first time it dropped below triple digits. The heat never ends. Even in the wee hours of the morning it's still pushing 90. That means there is never a good time to exercise outside. So we hibernate. For 6 months.
9. It actually gets cold. It's already hard for me to imagine, but I have these vague memories of wearing wool sweaters during the day, and bundling up in all of my fleece (including a fleece ear warmer!) to run in the mornings. But I will never complain about our cold. We welcome winter with open, desperate arms.
8. Phoenix is enormous. Brandon kept telling me that Phoenix was going to be much bigger than San Diego, but I just didn't believe him. I kept denying that fact until I experienced Phoenix traffic. It's quite simply horrendous. And besides that, the Phoenix metropolitan area, with over 4 million people, spans across 9,000 square miles. Which means that it can take up to 2 hours to go from the Southeast corner of the valley to the Northwest corner.
7. Religion is big out here. There are churches on every corner (in the suburbs this is not an exaggeration). And a big trend is advertising your chosen church on your car. Of course your sticker must have a cool mega-church name like "Rock Point" or "Real Life".
6. This is Mormon central. I was shocked to find out that the communities of Gilbert/Mesa are home to the 2nd largest Mormon population outside of Utah. This means LDS churches on every corner, lots and lots of kids in the neighborhoods, and up until recently not being able to order alcohol at restaurants on Sundays (so I've been told). What we have learned from being in this heavy religious culture is to visit our favorite restaurants and play places on Sunday morning--when everyone is in church!
5. And here's another very real implication of a religious culture: extremely conservative politics. I'm gonna try to keep my emotions out of it while I simply state what Arizona politicians have been up to lately: cutting our state Medicaid for all single persons, cutting mental health services (after Jared Laughner shot Congresswoman Gabby Giffords), naming a state gun, ruling that guns be allowed in bars, and you are all familiar with SB1070--the law allowing cops to question a person's citizenship, especially if they look like they don't belong.
4. Arizona Mexican food is entirely different than California Mexican food. It's referred to as the Sonoran style, as opposed to the Baja style I'm used to in San Diego. But I'm still not sure exactly what the difference is yet because I'm having a really hard time just trying to find good, authentic Mexican food at all here.
3. The desert is beautiful. It took me years of visiting my in-laws in Arizona to begin to grasp the mysterious, enchanting beauty of the desert. The vibrant orange-purple-pink sunsets here far surpass any sunset on Sunset Cliffs in SD. And the purple mountains standing so majestic in the distance take my breath away almost every time I glance to the East.
2. Sedona is our state gem. It's a tourist haven, but for very good reason. The magnificent red rock structures that surround the little town of Sedona are of another world. Divine. I say the scenery is just as good as anything Utah's got.
1. Haboobs. Just say it with me:-) Borrowed from the Arabs, this term describes the crazy/nasty/massive dust storms that devour our valley regularly each summer. Last month a gnarly haboob came through--basically a wall of dust 2 miles high that brought visibility to 0, turned the sky dark brown, and put sand in our teeth. They even shut the airport down! Just google it...