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