Living in the USA: month two!

Welcome back dear readers! Those of you following for a while will know I’m currently Stateside! Back in September I announced on the blog some big news!! I was leaving my job to spend February, March and April in Washington State for a sufficient amount of time with my girlfriend.

You can catch up on how month one went here, but if you didn’t read that post then I guess I’d sum it up by essentially saying I’d grown accustomed to being unemployed. I’ve contemplated writing a blog post about this previously but one word that I think describes me pretty aptly is “unambitious”.

Society’s definition of ambitious is one I struggle to align with. Ambition is associated with progress in your profession. If you’re a window cleaner or road sweeper or whatever you’re nothing compared to the CEO’s of the world and the concept has always bemused me.

Why can’t ambition be to become a parent or to travel the world or to own my own house or to fall in love? I’m not suggesting it’s impossible to have both but society seems to judge your ambition or your importance dependent on your profession. It’s not okay to just float along in life – “What do you want to be when you grow up? Where do you see yourself in five years?”

My ambition was to become one of those “skilled workers” the government talk about. I wanted to be an accountant and once I got my foot in the door, I realised the accountants I was aspiring to be were sending me emails at 11:30pm on a Wednesday night or 5:30am on a Friday morning or spending their weekends working.

My sister got married on October 5th last year and whilst my job role was a very different job at that moment in time, in the back of my head there was this little voice screaming “Quarter-end”. I’d already made my mind up on coming to Washington by that point but I could just envisage this alternative lifestyle of the “ambitious accountant”..

The first Saturday of October? The first after September? It’s quarter end, I’ve got to work.. “Sorry Natasha but..”
“BUT IT’S MY WEDDING JASON!!”

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Me and my sister at her wedding, October 2019

How many ambitious professionals have missed something of significance because of work commitments? I quickly learnt that I didn’t want to be that person. Over the last few years I’ve watched my sister get married, I’ve celebrated New Year’s in Paris and Edinburgh, I’ve attended countless games of football in multiple countries, I’ve bar-hopped in Nashville, danced in the streets of New Orleans, fallen in and out of love, laughed, cried and most importantly lived..

I know I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent but that brings me back to the original point. The morale of month one was happiness. I made the point in that post that, finance-permitting, I could happily never work another day in my life. Just give me more of this life. Drinking tea in coffee shops, walking by the lake, watching football in a bar, spending my time visiting museums, date nights, catching up with friends. If being ambitious means sacrificing all of this, I don’t want to be ambitious! Work just isn’t that important to me (P.S – if you’re reading, please employ me!).

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Tea and a good book, what more do you need?

Anyway, I published my month one post on March 3rd and a few things have changed since then. I think the cruelest thing about my first four weeks here was truly appreciating time and freedom. Time seemed to stand still for the entirety of my first month here and it was bliss having the freedom to just enjoy the simple things in life. I don’t think I’ll ever be a “small-town” person but I was certainly appreciating the perks that come with it and living somewhere like this.

The last couple of weeks in particular has often been described as “this is the new normal” but I’d only just escaped the restraints of “the old normal”. So it has been an interesting second month, I’m not sure it’ll read as fun as the first month here but there have still been some highs and noteworthy moments that I hope you enjoy hearing about. I plan to go in the same format, week by week, as month one. Here goes!

Week five
I call this FA Cup week. Whilst not working certainly has its merits, the lack of routine certainly makes tracking the days a little trickier. Haleigh’s work schedule helped of course but I’ll be honest and say the football was probably one of the things helping me keep on top of the calendar – “what game is on today or this weekend?”

Week five was FA Cup week with games on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Unfortunately the FA Cup isn’t shown on TV out here but fortunately is on the ESPN app that is sold with the Disney+ bundle which meant Haleigh’s family were already subscribed to it. At the very least I’d pinpointed Wednesday as a “day at home” to watch Tottenham’s FA Cup game v Norwich.

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Even away from home, I still need my football fix!

I thought about what else to do this week and I decided it was going to be a bit of a recovery week as far as my bank balance went. Week four in particular had been a little spendier than I’d anticipated and I didn’t want to blow all of my money halfway in to this trip, I didn’t want to be financially dependent on Haleigh whilst I was here so this was a week to cutback a little.

Tuesday I spent at home, watched the FA Cup football and popped to the apartment complex’s gym afterwards to work off some of the beer from week four’s Brews and Tunes festival haha. I then spent the evening relaxing with Haleigh.

As I’ve already alluded to, Wednesday was Tottenham’s FA Cup day so one I intended to spend at home. The FA Cup was the one remaining shining light in this shit-show of a season for Spurs. It has been a disaster but if we could win the FA Cup, for the first time since 1991, for the first time in living memory for me (born in 88), then this season could still go down as a memorable one.

Sadly Spurs were dreadful. We took a fortuitous lead and then spent the next 70 minutes sleeping instead of trying to cement the win. Our manager’s complaints for weeks had been how the injuries were taking its toll on the squad and instead of ensuring we avoided an extra 30 minutes of football we sat back and waited for the inevitable Norwich equaliser late on which took us to extra-time.

From then on we tried to win the game, 80 minutes too late and ultimately got what we deserved for our negativity by losing the penalty shoot-out. I’ve joked all season that I couldn’t have wished for a better season to have pissed off for 3 months and this was the “cherry on the top” – another pathetic display and result in this shambles of a season.

I am missing the football but one thing I can credit the virus for is in ridding me of having to watch this Tottenham team. I’m sure for any Liverpool fan the prospect of a cancelled season is agonising but there will be celebrations long in to the night on Tottenham High Road if we void this season and start over.

It was another football-inspired mood-changer on this trip. Four games without a win and I’d only been here just over four weeks at this point. Ridiculous. Fortunately Thursday was less football-filled and consequently a positive day haha.

Two of Haleigh’s co-workers wanted to meet up and the invitation stretched to me to impose on a “girl’s night out”. As it was, one of the colleagues wasn’t able to join us so it just ended up being myself, Haleigh and Kristi. We went along to one of the restaurants I’ve mentioned previously on the blog, Michael’s on the Lake, it’s a nice place that unsurprisingly is situated along the lake.

Michael's On The Lake
Views at Michael’s On The Lake, August 2018

We chatted over drinks and good food before saying our goodbyes. It was nice to spend a little time together, Kristi kindly paid for us, refusing any notion of us contributing towards dinner. We promised to do it again before I went home with us returning the gesture.

Thursday had been the one thing I’d budgeted for this week so with a cheaper night than expected I decided to get out and wander in to town on Friday. I re-visited my usual favourites. I kicked off my morning with some tea and a book at Mason’s Place which has become one of the nicest ways to pass the time here. It’s a cosy and friendly place in town. In the home state of Starbucks I’d still much rather visit and support little places like this, even if Starbucks is to an extent a “local business”.

Moving on I went to grab lunch and popped in to Midway Pub. I usually only visit when there’s football on but in spite of there being no football, it’s still a nice lunch spot and again just friendly to visit. Oddly enough the previous week I’d got chatting to a barman I’d yet to see in there, who just so happened to be leaving Moses Lake and moving to Seattle in the imminent future. Today I got talking to a barmaid I’d yet to see in there, who was leaving Moses Lake and moving down to California. Two born and bred Moses Lake barstaff moving out of town – bizarre! She was friendly though and offered a few recommendations of local things to see and do before I left Washington.

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Midway Pub, best in Moses Lake!

I headed home before Haleigh got back from work. Friday has typically become our date night so we went out to Rock Top for the first time on this particular trip. It’s become a bit of a regular for us, it was the place we had our very first date back in September 2017, but oddly we’d yet to come here after almost a full five weeks in town. I don’t know why but I was really in the mood for a burger and surprisingly opted for my first ever Veggie burger.

I appreciate vegetarians and vegans who impose that lifestyle for a number of reasons, and perhaps this just wasn’t a great veggie burger, but those kidding themselves they’re a substitute in taste for a meat burger are mistaken. As I said, perhaps it just wasn’t a great veggie burger or perhaps I was just consciously aware that it was a veggie burger but I felt like there was a noticeable difference in taste. That said, it was still enjoyable. I had no complaints with the burger itself but it was no substitute for the “real thing”.

Following food we tried our luck at going bowling, we’d talked about going a week earlier but when we phoned they suggested all of the lanes were fully booked so we decided against it. We had better luck this week so went along for a couple of games. I bowled pretty well, particularly in the first game, but I found myself mesmerised by the guys in the lane next to us.

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Date night at Lake Bowl

I’m guessing they participate in a bowling league of sorts and were getting some practice in but it was entertaining to watch. I’ve no doubt they knew what they were doing, partly as I used to watch my parents play bowling in a league every week, but I’d just watch them seemingly aim for the gutter on each throw and watch the ball do its magic and swerve back inwards and see all of the pins drop. As I said, mesmerising bowling!

The rest of the weekend was pretty relaxed. I don’t think we really did much other than hang out. We’ve spent most of our time at home either watching Netflix, watching movies on Disney+ or playing CTR on the PS4 haha.

Week six
Ah, the last week of normalcy out here in Washington! The first thing I did this week was unsurprisingly football related again. I’ve been trying to get out at least once a week but generally aiming at twice a week. With midweek football being a frequent occurrence at this time of the season I’ve generally been able to squeeze in a pub trip most weeks.

This week Tottenham were playing their second leg of their Champions League tie against Leipzig. Ironically after all my complaints of visiting Germany too frequently in recent years, if I’d not been in Washington I would likely have been in Leipzig for this fixture. It’s a German city I’ve yet to visit but heard good things about.

Leipzig are one of those football teams that cause a little controversy due to their ownership, particularly in Germany where football clubs are generally majority owned by fans (supposed to have a 51% majority even with other investors). Leipzig are owned by Red Bull and have quickly risen through the German football ladder which makes them quite unpopular amongst football “purists”.

Their quick rise in football also means they’re relatively inexperienced on the big stage so my hope was, with a manager familiar with the “dark arts”, that overturning a first leg defeat in London wasn’t impossible. However so it proved, we were comfortably well beaten by a really good footballing team. It was hard to be bitter about a team beating us that played the kind of football I could only dream of watching us play.

Before the week was even out pretty much most European football had been suspended so this was the last game I’ve been able to watch out here. Although as I alluded to above, now on a winless run of six I feel blessed that the football has been placed on hold. I don’t know what the solution is for the remainder of the season to be completed but Tottenham’s season essentially ended at this defeat anyway. Removing this season from the history books would actually be welcomed by me haha.

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Another nice day to go out in Moses Lake

Moving away from the football, I decided I’d go out on Thursday too. I think signs of the panic setting in were really starting to show by this point. It only seemed a matter of time before Washington followed measures being placed elsewhere in the world and in the States. Likewise the signs of hoarding was already clear to see on shopping trips.

As usual I visited Mason’s Place to kick off my day however with the uniqueness of some in-house entertainment. One of the customers was sat with a guitar and practicing a few tunes which created a really nice atmosphere whilst I sat down and read for a little while.

I decided to go and check out somewhere different in town today for lunch. I’d not really noticed it until recently but this little building, that looked like a bar, was placed across the street from Safeway and having looked it up online actually looked bigger than it’s outside appearance suggested. I made my way over to “The Ripple Tavern” and sat down at the bar.

Ripple Tavern
The Ripple, Moses Lake

I was really surprised to see how busy it was. There was no sign of any fear amongst the locals here but more importantly, I was just surprised at how busy it was for a Thursday afternoon. I’d go as far as saying this is the busiest place I’ve been to during the day in Moses Lake across multiple trips here and just multiple weeks on this trip alone.

It seemed largely full of regulars but it was still a surprise to me. I ordered myself a beer and some food, the beer I wanted was this mango-flavoured delicious beer that I got a small taste of but seemingly they ran out of so I ended up with something else. The food was good, the staff were friendly enough and it was nice to discover a new spot in town. That said, I didn’t really see it as a regular haunt.

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Grabbed a picture after it had quietened down in The Ripple

Not that it mattered too much, that proved to be my last outing in Washington for the foreseeable future. Before heading home I popped in to Safeway, I knew we needed a couple of bits so thought I’d pick up some stuff for breakfast and things. I also knew we were running low on toilet rolls so I was hoping a daytime afternoon trip might be a good opportunity to get some. The aisle was inevitably sparse but I at the very least managed to grab a pack of four which I figured would keep us going without a need to start getting creative! It’s just as well because we would have run out before we were next able to find any!

Earlier in the week, I’d said to Haleigh not all of our dates had to be about going out and spending a tonnes of money so we agreed to have an “at-home” date on Friday night. With the benefit of hindsight maybe we’d have done this Friday night differently but we decided to stay in, get some food (pizza I think) and just hang out with a couple of movies. Haleigh introduced me to ‘The Great Race’ which was a fun little comedy released back in the 60’s. It wasn’t a film I was familiar with but one I enjoyed nonetheless.

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More snow on the complex!

It snowed overnight on Friday so we didn’t really do anything over the rest of the weekend. They announced school closures in Washington on Friday which meant, after Monday, Haleigh would be off work for the next few weeks. We were both excited at the prospect of more time together, ultimately the reason I’d come here in the first place.

However on Sunday night the governor of Washington imposed further measures and ordered the closure of most, non-essential, businesses. Restaurants and bars could only operate a take-out or delivery service whilst most other retail and leisure businesses shut down. Those measures would take effect immediately for King County (the Seattle area) with further detail announced on Monday morning for the rest of the state (us!).

Week seven
Being honest, I was hoping the lack of clarity in Sunday’s statement might mean I could squeeze in one more lunchtime outing on Monday. I don’t think everywhere in the town actually closed but the ones I’d intended to drop in on had made it clear on social media channels that they’d be closing immediately so it scuppered any hope of going anywhere on Monday. I just stayed at home and prepared myself for “the new normal”.

Washington’s closures were for an initial period of two weeks to help “flatten the curve”, so I apologise if weeks seven and eight feel a little boring in comparison to the previous six but I guess we’re all in the same boat right now. Although there were still memorable moments of course. Just spending more time with Haleigh was nice enough and we’ve been able to do more at home together.

The week was plodding along nicely before reaching Friday – date night! Obviously this was another one spent at home but wouldn’t go forgotten! We had dinner together whilst watching whatever on the TV. Following on from dinner we tidied up a little and I made a point of heading outside to dispose of the trash – on somewhat of a secret mission!

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Sunset views from our apartment complex

After ridding myself of the rubbish I took a little detour and swung by our mailbox we’d neglected over the past few days, anticipating a little package inside that I’d had confirmation had been delivered. I’d ordered it under very different circumstances, expecting Haleigh to be working and also under the premise that we’d be free to do as we pleased but the restraints and closures scuppered my plans somewhat.

After collecting my little box I returned to a confused Haleigh, pondering why it had taken me so long to walk to the skip and back. I was expecting this to come so had pre-planned my excuses!

I mean, obviously, I’d just wanted a little fresh air and walked to the skip all the way on the other side of the complex to stretch my legs.

“Alright, you weirdo..” – buahaha! My secret mission had gone without too much suspicion!

I got myself back in to a relaxed state, returning to the pyjamas that myself and Haleigh had been wearing all day before conversation led to the fact today marked exactly two and a half years together – a nice little landmark in our relationship. Of course there was cause for this direction in the conversation, that little package I’d gone to collect was an engagement ring.

I can’t say I’d pictured any engagement being in our pyjamas on the sofa during a quarantine of sorts but it felt like a meaningful date to do it and just so happened to be the date the ring arrived too – I was so pleased they’d not come to the door to deliver it and spoil any sense of surprise.

I shamefully didn’t go down on one knee, as I said nothing about the scenario really went quite as pictured but even in the circumstances I think it came across as sweet and more importantly came as a surprise to Haleigh who, even with my lengthy trash-taking outing, hadn’t anticipated a proposal was coming. I’m pleased to say the proposal was met with a yes so some good news to share with the world during these extraordinary times!

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Walla Walla, February 2020

The next day we took a daytrip to Haleigh’s home town to share the news, and show off the ring, with some of the family. We did restrict who we visited because of the measures in place and made it as socially-distant a trip as we could. There was obviously nothing to do in Walla Walla either but it was still nice to briefly see the family and share the happy occasion in person. Breaking the news to family and friends back home went down equally well, although was obviously something we weren’t able to do in person. It rounded off our first socially-distanced week nicely though.

Week eight
Further sanctions were imposed going in to week eight. On Monday the UK government advised all nationals currently abroad to head home at the earliest possibility, which was somewhat ironic because on the same day the governor of Washington added further measures and placed a “Stay At Home” order on all of Washington’s inhabitants for the next two weeks.

With no mention of restrictions entering the UK, nor any sign of my flight being cancelled I’ve been a little reluctant to cut this trip short. Ultimately does it matter too much where I’m isolating? I’ve largely adopted a “wait and see” policy to this trip.

So this week kicked off as relatively normal as possible in the circumstances. We really needed supplies for the week. I think a week earlier we’d tried to do a meal plan for the week and found we couldn’t actually find half of the stuff we wanted so it was a bit of a redundant shopping trip. So going in to this week we decided we’d wing it and just shop dependent on what was available.

Surprisingly this was a rather successful shopping trip. It seemed the crazy had balanced out a little and we were able to actually get much of what we wanted. The most encouraging sign for us was seeing other shoppers with toilet rolls in their trolleys – “does that mean..?” – after weeks of looking we found a store with toilet roll in stock! Not much admittedly but enough that we even have a very limited choice of which brand of toilet roll we wanted. We grabbed a pack of 12 and rejoiced in a successful shopping trip!

Friday’s proposal was undoubtedly a highlight of my time here but perhaps, in the circumstances, this could be considered a close second! No need to find dodgy toilet-roll-sellers on the black market!

After shopping I Skyped with the parents for a bit to have a post Mother’s Day and post-engagement catch up. It was nice to have a proper chat.

The rest of week eight has been largely non-eventful – which was disappointing because it was probably set to be one of my more sociable weeks here. I’d agreed to co-host a little Twitter-based chat on Wednesday with a friend (Eric) based in nearby Union Gap.

We’d also agreed to meet up so he could show me the local area and some of the ‘sights’ so I was going to head over there on Tuesday. The aim of the chat is to spread and promote tourism, plus engage with other travelers and Twitter users, so it’s always fun and I was quite excited at the prospect of meeting up. Eric had even set up a radio chat for us on the Wednesday morning which was both exciting and nerve-wrecking haha.

Thursday was then going to be the opening day of the baseball season so myself, Maddie and Cassie were going to head over to Seattle to watch the Seattle Mariners. I figured I could spend Tuesday night in Union Gap, see some of Union Gap (and maybe Yakima), do the chat, spend Wednesday night in Ellensburg and then drive out to Seattle with Maddie and Cassie on Thursday.

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Home of the Seattle Mariners, September 2017

I already knew the baseball had been cancelled but then myself and Eric sensibly agreed to postpone meeting up, which was prior to the “stay at home” order which would have taken the decision out of our hands anyway. With nothing open it just didn’t seem worthwhile.

So Tuesday was uneventful before doing our little chat from our respective homes on Wednesday. It was quite fun and certainly kept me busy for a good hour or two in responding to all of the different people engaging on Twitter.

Not content with just one day of Twitter engagement, another friend (Ian from England), asked if I’d submit a little recording for his podcast. He was doing an episode on people who specifically traveled for sporting events and I, unsurprisingly, sprung to mind. We’d met up in England just shortly before my trip to Madrid in June so I was one of a few people that sprung to mind. It was only a short piece, one of several to contribute, but Ian’s episode went live over the weekend. For anyone interested in my podcast debut, you can listen here!

Then on Friday I’d also been invited to co-host another day-long Twitter chat which gets a hell of a lot more traffic than the one earlier in the week. It was also a lot of fun but rounded off a really blog and Twitter heavy week. Aside from being fun to engage with other travelers, one of the perks is it helps promote your own profile and it’s of no surprise that my Twitter and blog traffic soared this week.

You’d be forgiven for thinking I’ve spent all of my time on the internet and neglected Haleigh but I promise we’ve still been enjoying eachother’s company too haha. We’ve made small and early steps towards wedding planning, continued watching Disney movies and binge-watching Supernatural, read and just generally basked in all of the time together. The circumstances certainly aren’t ideal and we’re probably suffering a little cabin-fever but there’s nobody I’d rather spend this quarantine era with haha.

Month three?
Sadly it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. On Sunday Trump did a press conference which suggested these social-distancing and stay-at-home measures would be extended until April 30th which has made me a little more wary.

I was due to fly home on May 1st which felt just a little too close for my liking. I’d personally have no issue about staying here longer but I’m here on a 90 day visa and I’d pushed this trip to the limits. I think May 1st is something like 88 days in the country so a last minute flight cancellation would really cause some problems.

As I said, I’m not personally opposed to staying longer but unfortunately the USA don’t treat visa breaches with the same attitude. I’ve seen suggestions you can be banned from returning to the country for up to 10 years which would bring a host of new problems.

I planned on phoning the British embassy in San Francisco on Tuesday to see what my options were. Unfortunately they’d seemingly decided to close! I was on the phone with this automated message telling me what the opening hours are but they’d closed irrespective of those opening hours. On the 14th of March Trump banned all Brits from visiting the country so I don’t know if that played a part in the closure, perhaps they thought nobody would require assistance if nobody was visiting but it scuppered any hope I had of extending my visa a little longer.

It did make me chuckle somewhat though, it’s the first time I’ve ever felt the need to phone the British embassy on my travels and they weren’t available! That’s encouraging for the future!

I did a little further online research but nothing that suggested it’d be easy for me to stay any longer so I reluctantly phoned my airline (Virgin Atlantic) to see if they could change my flight for me. They were able to but they didn’t have a single direct flight for the entirety of April, I didn’t particularly fancy transiting anywhere, certainly if somewhere like New York City was going to be my best option.

Annoyingly Virgin weren’t able to offer me a refund either, I’m guessing I’ll have to wait and see if that flight is cancelled to claim a refund. They did suggest they’d be able to offer me flight credit so at worst I might take them up on that or move the flight to later in the year and re-use it as I’ll certainly be returning to Washington at some point.

However my more immediate concern was getting a flight home with their competitor, British Airways, who still seemed to be offering direct flights. I succeeded so it’s with a heavy heart that there will be no post on month three in Washington.

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Views of the West Coast from the sky!

I’ve made the difficult decision to fly back to England early and I fly home on Sunday evening. I wouldn’t change anything about the whole experience, I’m so pleased I came out here but of course I’m also sad that my trip has been shortened due to circumstances completely out of my control.

It wasn’t how this trip was supposed to end, I feel like I still have a bit of unfinished business here. I’m very much a laid-back individual with a “go-with-the-flow” attitude but this stings a bit. Yet that’s the unpredictable nature of travel I suppose, even as somewhat of an experienced traveler sometimes things don’t go as planned.

On a more positive note it will be nice to go home and see familiar faces from a socially acceptable distance. I’m also optimistic that my flight home will be largely empty, I’m crossing my fingers for an upgrade (are you reading BA?) given there will presumably be space on board!

Anyway, hopefully you enjoyed month two in spite of the difficult circumstances. Fortunately the coming posts will feature much more to talk about as I’ll be kicking off my big summer trip of 2018. If you want a little taster of what’s to come, here’s a pathetic summary of that trip.

I’ll be sharing a day by day telling of “The Big 3-0” trip to the USA. 30 days celebrating my 30th birthday in 2018. Next up is day one of that trip! Stay tuned!

Jason

Living in the USA: month one!

Welcome back folks! Last time out on the blog I promised you’d get a bonus post this week! As many of you will know, either from this post or elsewhere, I made the decision to spend three months living in the USA. I’ve spoken with a few of you already but naturally everyone wants to know how things are going, so what better way than a blog post, right?

Anyway I arrived in Washington on Monday the 3rd of Feb (one month ago) and in Moses Lake itself on Tuesday the 4th of Feb (four weeks ago). So it’s a good chunk of time for me to ramble about, update you on and just let you know how life in general is going. It’s just a bonus it’s fallen within my little Washington series. Last time out on the blog I said Moses Lake wasn’t somewhere you’d plan long term travel for (i.e a two week holiday) so being here for three months was certainly going to be interesting.

I’m not entirely sure how this post is going to go (it might be long) but I’ll break it up in to little sections I think and see how it goes. Here’s month one!

Arrival
First things first, get in the bloody country, right? Long-time readers might remember my ordeal of daring to visit the US in 2016. I was very fortunate to visit the US growing up on four occasions on family trips to Florida but in truth the parents took the lead on each of those occasions to ensure a smooth arrival.

I thought going to Georgia in February 2016 for romance was nerve-wrecking enough but I hadn’t at any point considered I might not even get in to the country. I was wrong and had to go through a thorough interrogation before US border control deemed myself worthy of visiting the delights of Atlanta.

“If you don’t pass this test you’ll be on the first plane back to London” – god forbid!

A few US trips later I was at least prepared for this fun and games with border control but I knew it was seemingly inevitable that I was going to run into trouble.

“How long are you here for, what do you do for a living?”
“Well, you see.. I’m here to stay with my girlfriend for 3 months after quitting my job of eight years.”
“Good luck mate, hope it all works out for you!”

Needless to say, it didn’t quite go as smoothly as that. I was fine for most of the flight to Seattle but the nerves hit me in the queue for the border control (“Come on, get a grip of yourself Jason”). I knew there was no real reason for my entry to be denied but it’s America, you know? Do they need a great reason to send you on the first flight home?

“This bloke blinked funny. Send him back to London!”

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Leaving Seatac and flying back to England on a previous visit

I knew the two above questions were the two big red flags that were going to raise suspicion, the plus side being that I was at least prepared for it. I figured if I was honest I’d have no problems, I had printed my return flight details so they could see I had intentions of going home but it was the unexpected third red flag that caused me problems.

I’d got through the fingerprint checks, the retinal scanner, the passport check and a couple of questions and then I was asked “Have you ever been arrested?” – “No..”

Great! Then shortly after I heard some officer at a desk behind me ask his arriving passenger “Have you ever been to the US?” and the overthinking kicked in. US.. Arrest.. that sounds awfully similar in the accent, did I mishear my guy earlier?

I’ve not been arrested, however I have been to the US so two very different answers. I didn’t want to cause any confusion or reason to deny my entry by giving false information so I figured I’d double check. “Sorry, did you ask..?”

That was a mistake! “Yeah.. why?.. Have you?”
No, no, no.. too late! I’d offered some doubt in my credibility as an arrival in to the country. I could instantly sense the change in mannerisms and tone. “What’s your social?”

My social what? I had no idea what he meant? Social security number that US residents have? I don’t have a social.. My confusion or non-compliant response didn’t help matters. Strike two!

He looked at my passport again and started tapping away at his computer, hoping to find some criminal record linked to my identity. He now appeared convinced that I was a criminal mastermind that was trying to escape the authorities!

The officer behind me chirped up again. I heard him ask “What do you do for a living?” and it seems my officer had heard it too as he immediately followed it up by asking me the same question. “Thanks mate, excellent question! I’d forgot to ask that one!”

That was it. Strike three. Three piss poor answers on the bounce. “Okay, follow me..” and I was quickly escorted off to some screening area for further interrogation. Much like in Atlanta I’d failed again.

Fortunately the woman handling my case was much friendlier. After waiting around for a while we had a little chat which ended along the lines of “I want to get you on your way..” which was a sign of encouragement. They inevitably phoned Haleigh to cross-check our responses and soon enough I was successfully allowed into the country! Hurrah!

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Spotted this in Seattle after arriving, seemed quite apt

Week one!
After that point I was pretty relaxed. The worst part of this whole trip, this whole process, was over with. Whatever happened from here was at least largely in my own hands.

There was no guarantee that things would go well once I was here but I at least felt I had control over that situation. Having someone sat behind a desk determining the fate of your future, and potentially your relationship, is a horrible feeling. I don’t really know what I’d have done had I been refused entry – it completely ruins any plans for 2020 and the immediate future.

Whatever happened with me and Haleigh, at least I was definitely in the country now. If Haleigh threw me out after 3 days of living together then I’d cross that bridge when I came to it but I was here and ready for this experience.

The only plus side to the ordeal was that I had plenty of time to kill in Seattle. I’d be spending the bulk of the next three months in Moses Lake but Haleigh had to work on the Monday that I arrived and the public transportation and Greyhound schedule is pretty rubbish.

I landed in Seattle between 2 and 3pm. There are no afternoon buses to Moses Lake, the first bus I could catch was at about 11pm so I had hours ahead of me. By the time I got in to the actual city it was closer to 4pm so I still had a good 6-7 hours to find something to do.

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I got the link as far as the ‘SoDo’ area of Seattle. It’s an area I’ve passed many times before on some mode of transport but never actually explored. With numerous walls covered in murals and street art I thought it’d be fun to look around for a little while. Unfortunately the pedestrianised walkway makes it difficult to get any decent photos of the artwork so although there were some impressive pieces it felt like a bit of a wasted detour.

I figured with my evening it best to find a bar or restaurant near to the bus station. Had I not been to Seattle before I might have ventured further in to the touristy areas of the city but over a few trips I’ve seen various parts of the city.

Unfortunately the area near to the bus station is Chinatown and I wasn’t particularly hungry for Asian cuisine so I wandered a little further (uphill, always uphill Seattle!) to find myself a bar that looked like a good spot for an evening.

I popped in to Seattle’s Flatstick Pub. It wasn’t somewhere I’d been before but is a new favourite of mine. There was a good range of beers to choose from, cool murals painted on the wall, a nice atmosphere and a bunch of games and things that provide further entertainment.

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FlatStick Pub, Seattle. Worth a visit!

Sadly the food options were limited so I left after a couple of beers and moved on. I found food in one bar but the sole barman behind the bar seemed to actually spend little time at the bar. I eventually grabbed his attention to order a second beer but he either misheard me or decided I needed to bugger off as instead of a pint he brought me my bill – I took it as a sign to leave haha.

The last bar I popped in to seemed a little posher and I’m not sure would ever be a regular for me if I was a local in Seattle but it was quiet and the barman was really friendly. So much so that as they neared closing the guy said I could stick around for a bit if I wanted somewhere warm whilst waiting for my bus – I really appreciated that but didn’t overstay my welcome (although I was the last to leave) and made my way on to the greyhound bus station – surprisingly busy!

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Good bar, great hosts! At Good Bar, Seattle

Four hours later I’d arrived to a freezing Moses Lake in the early hours of Tuesday morning with Haleigh waiting to pick me up. After a fun few hours in Seattle by myself, it was now real. I was living here for the next three months!

The first week in Moses Lake was largely about settling in and trying to get some sort of routine going. I thought it’d take me longer to feel like I was “living” here but I think unpacking on my first morning helped. For the first time I was visiting here living out of furniture opposed to a suitcase. It makes you feel a bit more like it’s home rather than just a holiday.

I think the question on many people’s lips over the last few weeks, from family and friends, is how it has been living so far from home. In all honesty, it doesn’t feel that different to being back in England. Perhaps that’s partly down to my comfort of being around Haleigh but I feel like it has just been naturally easy.

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Shopping at Safeway – a blast to the past!

I think some of the bigger struggles have been simple things like shopping. What brands do you buy in a new place? I’ve spoken about my predictable nature on the blog before (Weetabix boy) but you become accustomed to buying the same things because you like those things at home.

One of the first things I did here was go shopping on Wednesday whilst Haleigh was at work, equipped with a list of things to buy for us to eat, and there’s just so much choice for everything (“oh, you bought the expensive butter..”). Where do you start in a brand new place? It’s a little weird.

There have been some other minor oddities to get accustomed to, such as having to use a kettle that isn’t electric. I’m back in the dark ages! Although the bigger surprise is probably that Haleigh even owns a kettle. For one, many American households don’t have one but Haleigh doesn’t drink tea or coffee either so seems even more bizarre in this instance. I genuinely thought I’d be rushing out to buy a “proper kettle” but it didn’t seem a necessary purchase so I’ve just got used to using it.

The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is largely unrelated to being here but just time. There’s a time difference of eight hours between here and England but as far as I can tell that eight hour time difference seems to be a thing called work.

Time just doesn’t move when you’re unemployed. You make breakfast at 8am and you’re jumping in the shower ten minutes later at 7:30am – how did that happen? The first few days I’d wake up early, eat breakfast, go shopping, go find a coffee shop to drink tea in, go to the museum, go home, do the chores and I’m still waiting around for Haleigh to come home for us to spend the next forty hours relaxing before bed.

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Sitting in a coffee shop with a good book!

You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a criticism but it’s the complete opposite. Time feels like such a luxury at the moment. There have been countless times I’ve just been sat drinking tea at Mason’s Place (a coffee shop in town) without a care in the world – it’s bliss!

I don’t know how I’m ever supposed to go back to a working life when time goes this slowly and I can just enjoy my days walking by the lake or swigging on tea in this cosy little coffee shop. My days feel longer. The company helps of course in making me feel relaxed.

The highlight of my first week was probably our first date night of the trip. We ventured down to this brewery in town that has to be relatively new. I’d never heard of it on previous visits but it popped up in Facebook events with an open mic night so we went down and checked it out. It was a fun evening with good company, good drinks and a bit of Uno (I thrashed Haleigh!) before calling it a night.

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Date night at Squirrel Fight Artisan Brewery

Week two!
After what felt like four weeks of not working I’d completed a full week in Washington State. Honestly, work felt like a distant memory. It was unbelievable to me I’d only been here a week. It’s still unbelievable to me I’ve only just reached four weeks in the US. I feel like I’ve been here for SO long (in a good way). My last memory of England feels really really distant.

One of the first things I did this week was get in touch with our friends Maddie and Cassie. We’ve arranged to go and watch the opening day of the Seattle Mariners baseball season in March but there was definitely a part of me that was concerned I’d fall in to this trap of assuming they’re nearby but never actually arranging to see eachother properly.

I didn’t want to be here for three months and only actually see eachother that one time for the baseball. So we arranged to meet up on Thursday this week which gave me a few days to kick off week two by pottering around Moses Lake.

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Japanese gardens, September 2017

I’ve been trying to share ‘stories’ over Facebook and Instagram to offer some insight of what I’ve been up to whilst I’ve been here. Some of you will see I popped down to the Japanese Friendship Garden on the Tuesday (after another morning tea session at Mason’s Place). I’d visited here in September 2017 and it had been rather pretty but also really peaceful.

What I didn’t realise is that it’s actually closed for the season! I walked up to find the fence locked and consequently I was denied an opportunity to wander around. I am rather fond of this little town but there is a limited amount of things to do without the inconvenience of things also being closed seasonally! Haha.

A couple of days later we were off to Ellensburg to catch up with Maddie and Cassie. Maddie was performing at some (spoken word?) event so myself and Haleigh went and grabbed some food at some cute little diner first before having a little wander around Ellensburg.

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A small little diner in Ellensburg

We then drove over to hang out with Maddie, Cassie, one of their friends and the many four legged members of the house – Olivia being particularly excited by our visit! It was a lovely night catching up and one of the highlights of the week here.

February just so happened to coincide with Haleigh’s Winter Break (as a teacher) so she actually had a long weekend this week so on Friday we drove out to Haleigh’s hometown Walla Walla.

Walla Walla is actually the next post in my Washington series so you’ll hear more about it on Thursday but it’s another city I’ve grown largely fond of, largely because of the connection to the people I associate with the city. We were once again kindly hosted by Haleigh’s grandparents which is always appreciated.

It was an opportunity to see some of Haleigh’s family once again, whilst also getting to meet a couple of family members I hadn’t yet met. Haleigh’s cousin (Michelle) drove up from Utah with her boyfriend (David), whilst another of Haleigh’s cousins (Kylie) drove down from Spokane with her little newborn.

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Double date on Valentine’s Day

The Friday was Valentine’s Day too so myself and Haleigh went out for wings and beers (I think I was the only one actually drinking but still.. haha) with Michelle and David on somewhat of a double date. It was a really fun evening getting to know eachother a bit better and cemented our spring break plans to go down and visit Utah in April! I’m pretty excited for that!

The weekend was really about visiting the family but we did squeeze in a short trip to the Tri-Cities too which is always fun to visit. We only had a little look around to do some shopping but it was fun. It was a bit of a spendier weekend than most will be whilst I’m here but worthwhile and a lot of fun, definitely one of the highlights thus far!

Week three!
We got back to Moses Lake on the Monday with Tuesday spent at home together relaxing before Haleigh’s return to work on Wednesday – which kicked off week three!

Tottenham were playing in the Champions League on Wednesday night back in England so I made a lunchtime trip down to my favourite bar in the city. I mentioned this in my recent post on Moses Lake but they’re always so friendly when I go in here. They even asked on this trip what beer I was drinking whilst I was here as they were planning to phase out my usual and wanted to ensure there was an alternative they had in for me – how sweet is that?

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Midway Pub, Moses Lake

I assured them I’d drink whatever but I appreciated it nonetheless. Sadly the football was less positive as we succumbed to defeat by the Germans. On the plus side, this has been a shit-show of a season so I picked a good one to disappear for three months. I think we’ve lost the subsequent two fixtures since this one so I can’t pretend to be missing it too much haha.

Date night this week was spent visiting some steakhouse in town. I’ve had their steak before (and since) but I opted for fish and chips on this occasion and honestly, it’s one of the better (if not the best) fish and chips I’ve had in the US. The service was particularly good on this night too so it was a particularly lovely evening.

We had a pretty relaxed weekend after that. Other than plan out our meals for the week and go food shopping it was a pretty uneventful weekend. We’ve been binge-watching Supernatural (I’ve never really watched it until now) and playing the PS4 a bit but it has  just been nice spending so much time together. The only disappointment of the weekend was that North London rubbish losing once again.

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Four weeks of life in Moses Lake!

Week four!
Wow, I’ve now spent four whole weeks here. It has been a great experience up until now. In some respects this week wasn’t hugely eventful in comparison to some of the previous weeks, in another respect this week probably felt one where I’ve felt most acclimatised to my new surroundings.

Each week kicks off on a Tuesday for me as that’s the day I arrived in Moses Lake. So I kicked off week four by checking out this diner in town that I’d yet to visit. It’s laid out a bit like a train car which is pretty cool. I’d been meaning to visit for a while and pancake day seemed like the perfect excuse to check it out.

There are better pancakes in town but it’s a cool little place, I was surprised it wasn’t busier although I’d purposefully timed it to try and avoid the breakfast and lunch rush so maybe that was a factor.

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The adorable Mom and Pops diner, Moses Lake

I also went back to the museum on Tuesday because I knew they’d brought in a new exhibit in the past few days so I figured it had changed since my recent visit. Oddly the exhibit hadn’t replaced the previous one on wine, the new exhibit was actually within the gift shop which seemed bizarre to me. Had I not known to look for it I probably wouldn’t have thought to check there.

Friday I popped in to town again during the day and this was probably one of my more sociable days here. As usual I kicked off my morning with a tea at Masons Place and the owner thanked me for giving it a shout out in my Instagram stories recently. I moved on over to Midway Pub and got chatting to a barman I’d yet to actually see in there so we were chatting for quite a while.

Strangely it’s the first time I’ve walked in there without having to ask them to put the football on, I walked in and the Norwich v Leicester game was already on which was refreshing.

Basalt Collective, Moses Lake
The Basalt Collective, Moses Lake

I was going to head straight back to the apartment after the football but decided I’d quickly pop in to this art gallery that I’d passed a few times but yet to visit. I knew another opportunity would present itself very soon but I figured it’d be quieter today and so it proved. I had a good chat with the owner who seemed pleased to have a visitor from overseas.

Friday also brought another date night. We went back to the steakhouse for food (I got steak this time) and thought we could go do something after. I suggested bowling but as it was all the lanes were taken so we went to my favourite bar which had karaoke on Fridays. I’d yet to visit at anything other than lunchtime so I was interested to see how the atmosphere differed, I also think it was the first time Haleigh had ever been here.

It was certainly a lot livelier than any previous visit. One of the barmen I’d not seen for a while was working and seemed to remember me which was nice. I’m slowly making my face known in town!

Some of the karaoke acts were surprisingly good, it certainly wasn’t a drunken evening of terrible acts which was an upgrade from my last karaoke experience (watching some Spurs fans butcher Britney Spears in Brussels). Haleigh even plucked up the courage to get up and sing herself, I did not! Probably for the best! Haha.

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Brews and Tunes festival, Moses Lake

The next day (Saturday) the town was hosting a festival called Brews and Tunes. Twelve locations in town were hosting a brewery each and some of those locations would also have live artists / bands playing.

It wasn’t the cheapest day out but it was something that would support the businesses and musicians in town so after debating whether or not to go I decided to go. Haleigh wasn’t as convinced so decided to give it a miss which gave us some rare free time to ourselves. Admittedly I’ve had plenty but Haleigh has either been at work or with me 24/7 so was probably pleased to get some space and alone time anyway haha.

The ticket for the event provided you with a little tasting glass for the breweries and 8 beer tickets to taste your way around the town. If you wanted to purchase more beer tickets you were able to for a fee.

It ended up being a really fun day out and another highlight of my time here. The first brewery of the day were in the same building as the registration hall so it seemed the best place to kick off the day accompanied with some local artist singing some of his own stuff.

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LJ Polmateer II of One Solution performing at Brews and Tunes

The second brewery took me to a carpet store. Some of the locations were quite bizarre in truth but it was nice to see 12 businesses along this stretch all get involved. Location number three saw me return to the art gallery from the day before, the owner came and sat with me for a little while which was nice before attending to a spillage elsewhere (one of the strongest beers of the day too – what a beer to waste!).

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Beer number 3 at the Basalt Collective

The rest of the locations took me back past the first building. A couple of girls in the carpet store were already speculating about buying more beer tickets and it made a lot of sense. You started the day with 8 beer tickets but there were 12 breweries. You had the option to buy additional single tickets or a batch of 5 which would take my total up to 13 tickets in total. It made sense to taste one from each brewery and consequently check out each location so in passing I went and picked up a few more tickets.

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Lake City Blues performing at Windermere Real Estate for Brews and Tunes!

I then moved on to location number four – a real estate firm with a blues band playing outside. The music was good and ‘Lake City Blues’ were the highlight of the three acts I’d seen thus far.

However this was then bettered as the next step on my tour featured a band called ‘Free Beer Nuts’ who were probably the best act of the day, playing in a cosy little room. I would happily have stayed there a bit longer but it was only a four hour event and I was only five out of twelve breweries in.

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Free Beer Nuts, best act on the day at Brews and Tunes

Reaching the halfway point was probably the oddest part of the day. I arrived to a packed jewelery store! I think it was just the timing of things that had made this a halfway point at which ever end you started the event so this was by far the busiest place I visited all day. There was quite a lengthy queue for the beer which I didn’t experience at any other point in the day. I might have been better placed coming back here but I waited it out with this older couple providing entertainment via some country music.

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Miller’s Fine Jewelers hosting Brews and Tunes

On to the second half of the breweries! Oddly I bumped in to a familiar face at my 7th location. We’d made a friend on our first date night at Squirrel Fight who spent most of the night singing at Open Mic night. He recognised me and came and had a chat, it was a bit of a surprise but he was such a character I’d obviously remembered who he was too. We chatted for a few minutes before heading our seperate ways.

The next few locations were odd ones. A couple of stores, a skin care company and then a yoga studio which was actually probably one of the best locations of the day for live music with a guitarist (Rylei Franks) set up nicely in the corner of this backroom. It was also here where I was again recognised by the guy who runs one of the breweries (Squirrel Fight) in town who thanked me for coming out!

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Rylei Franks performing at the O2! O2 Yoga Studio that is..

The last location (Michael’s Bistro) was the only one not on this road, admittedly it was only around the corner but it meant walking up a block to tick off my last location! 11 beers and one cider to complete the 12! Of course, that left me with one remaining beer ticket which I used at the place Free Beer Nuts were playing so I could see a little more of their act before calling it a day. Twelve locations, twelve beers, one cider!

All in all, it was a fun day. A little more expensive of a weekend than I’d anticipated as I tipped a few of the musicians along the way but thoroughly enjoyable and one that really makes me appreciate the beauty in enjoying some live music.

Afterwards I walked back the few miles to the apartment and spent the evening with Haleigh, including a quick gym visit (had to work off all that beer somehow!) as there’s one on the apartment complex here which is handy! Sunday and Monday were both relatively lazy days and here we are! Four weeks done!

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Snow at the beginning of the four weeks!

Overall verdict!
Overall it has been a really nice experience so far, I haven’t missed England as much as I thought I might. Although of course there are certain things I’ve missed, I’ve been craving a proper meat pie recently and Greggs have yet to bring a bakery to Moses Lake for me to munch on some sausage rolls. My friend Jenny also reminded me of the goodness of Custard Creams recently which might now require a thorough look down the ‘cookie’ aisles here to find something that isn’t an actual cookie or oreos.

There are other things I’ve missed (like watching football 24/7) but the people more than anything – the family in particular.

All that said, there’s a lot of good about being here too. For starters I’m enjoying my time with Haleigh which made the whole decision to come here worthwhile. We’ve yet to annoy eachother (or Haleigh’s yet to annoy me anyway) which is positive. The winter has been pretty mild too which is nice, aside from one day of snow it’s been sunny most days. There have been a few days where I’ve even left the house without a jacket which is so strange for this time of year.

Additionally the people in general here have been pretty welcoming and I do feel like this is becoming somewhat of a second home. It’ll never be my or Haleigh’s long term base but whilst I’m here I’m certainly going to enjoy it and I think I’ll always have a little fondness for Moses Lake.

Anyway I appreciate this ended up being a little wordy but hopefully offers some insight as to how things are going. I’ll continue putting stories up on Facebook and Instagram so keep following along there!

I’ll do another update in a month’s time but next time on the blog (Thursday) I’ll be rounding off my February 2018 trip to Washington! Stay tuned!

Jason