Thursday, February 6, 2014

Exploring the local culture - Pacific Northwest edition

Memorial Day Trip to Mt. St. Helens, 2013
Photo courtesy Jayanta Mondal
I have been in the Pacific Northwest now for three years and I absolutely love living here. At times I wish I was closer to Seattle, or Portland (Portland. Yes. Please?) but as my dad always said, "home is where you hang your hat." And I certainly need a lot of hats here!

Being a "Ph.D. wife," I'm aware that we may not be in this area much longer. It could be another year, maybe two; likely not more than that. And one of the things I regret the most about my short time in Louisiana was all the things I didn't do. I was always an outsider and never really integrated into the culture there -- I never even did the stereotypically touristy things like swamp tours or visiting the Tabasco factory in Grand Isle! Of course, I didn't expect to ever not be an outsider, but I admit I didn't really try very hard to meet people or build relationships there until right before I left.

I don't want to make those mistakes here. It's very easy to get caught up in the web of Life, of chores and cooking and work and internet and not really experience a lot of what the area you live in has to offer. It's easy to not put yourself out there, be vulnerable, make friends or at least acquaintances. I don't expect everyone to roll out the red carpet for me, but I want to put myself where the people are and live here, not just exist here.

So here are some of the things that I have done, or want to do, in the short time I have left here:
The only tomatoes we were able to grow!
They weren't supposed to be grape
tomatoes, but that's what happened...

  • Get involved in outdoor recreation. We've done this, in part. We biked a lot in 2011 and 2012, but A's bike was stolen when we went to India this year and he's not interested in getting another, so we may need to change up our activity. Hiking, perhaps? We went camping with some friends over Memorial Day weekend last year and it was one of the best trips I've ever been on. I have also just started cross-country skiing and want to keep it up as long as there's snow on the ground. I can go weekly with a small group from the college. I don't think I'll ever be one of those people who goes rock climbing one weekend, kayaking the next, and runs a marathon the following month, but I would like to make outdoor fun in the fresh air a more regular part of my lifestyle, be it cross-country skiing, the occasional camping trip, or just taking a walk at the arboretum. 
  • Buy our food from the local farmers market. We do this when the market's in session and we love it! We joined the university CSA in 2011 and although we probably won't join again due to uncertainty of when we will leave, it was great to be able to pick up local, organic, fresh produce on a weekly basis and then have fun trying to figure out what to do with it. Once we get settled somewhere, I'll look around for similar programs in that place. The farmers market is also good though. It's really an all-morning event. This year, I'd like to go weekly if possible.
  • Volunteer on a farm. Our local co-op has a program where members (of which I am one) can go volunteer on local farms and really see where our food comes from, up close and personal. I just found out about it this winter, and am hoping to be able to do this in the spring. I have gone apple, cherry, and raspberry picking which is always super fun and economical if you like eating a lot of fruit. 
    picking apples at the Organic Farm

  • Sing in the local chorus. Done, and done. Concert is May 3 and 4. Please come!
  • Join a spiritual community. I am involved with our local Sanatan Dharma center, but not regularly. At this time in my life this is something that is difficult to work in for many reasons, most of which are not bloggable. I do think after I have a family it will be something I will want to be more of a priority in my life. 
  • Attend collegiate arts and sporting events. I have not done this yet but 2014 will be the year. The local universities have so much to offer. I already sing in India night events but I think I should be more of an attendee and not a performer as well.  As far as sports go, I'm not really a big football fan, plus that's already got a lot of support, so perhaps I will come out and support the tennis team? Or baseball? Or women's basketball! I also just found out that the university is putting on Die Fledermaus on the one weekend I'm not singing in April so I will likely be attending that too! 
  • Sing more. The problem with college towns is that everyone moves away, and most of the people I sang and played music with when I first came here have done exactly that. But just yesterday I talked to a girl at the other university who knows a guy who plays guitar and wants to have a jam session... so let's see if we can get Round Two up and running!
  • Go to local wineries. We've already done a lot of regional trips when A's parents came to visit us - Portland, Seattle, National Parks, local attractions. There are a few other places I'd like to go, but the Columbia Valley wineries are at the top of the list. This is a big to-do for this spring.
So that's really my Pacific Northwest Bucket List. Anything else you think I should add? 


  1. I loved the way you've described the vulnerabilities of mingling into local life and the activities you've engaged in, to overcome that initial ice. The farmer's market and working on a farm sound so yum, must try!

  2. I think it's great that you want to do all of these things to feel like a member of the community. I really think that it is the little things like what you have mentioned that really connect you to a place regardless of how short of a time you are there. We spent most of 2012 touring through the US, moving from city to city every week or two (just for an adventure). Honestly we visited so many different places, but is only those cities where we really did something unique or took advantage of what it had to offer that really stick in your minds. Take advantage of all that you can before your move, be grateful for what you were able to do engage in while there, and be excited for what lies ahead!

  3. I just realized this is your new blog!
    Loved this post. As you know I also live in the Pacific Northwest and you have mentioned all the top points. I go to the local farmer's markets weekly and it is a fantastic experience. In Vancouver there is also a place called Granville Island Public Market (a twin of Pike Place Market) which I prefer to go to instead of Safeway.
    P.S. Nice toonie pic! ;)


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