At the beginning of the pandemic, I started a group chat with my sister and two good friends. We played phone games and had social nights via zoom. Through this process, we became very close and still talk to each other every day in the group chat. One of my friends from this chat recently moved to Austin, Texas for work. So of course I had to see her on my trip.
On my drive to Austin, I was able to stop at a Buc-ees near Dallas! Buc-ees is a HUGE gas station and grocery store located in four different states across the south. They have a lot of premade meals (which is what I tried) I bought the brisket and it was pretty good. Unfortunately I didn't take pictures, but to get an idea of it's size, it had the most people I had been around in an enclosed environment on my trip. It was actually quite overwhelming.
Austin is the only stop on my trip that I stayed for more than one night. The plan was to spend some time exploring Austin and relax somewhere to get away from the heat/humidity. The first evening, we went to Moonshine Grill. I, of course, ordered another chicken sandwich. It was very good, but not as good as the one in that I had in Savannah.
My friend ordered the "Green Chile Macaroni" and thought it was okay, but felt that there was too much corn. Only the south would put corn in their macaroni and cheese. She also was disappointed with the drink that she ordered. Needless to say, she probably won't be returning to Moonshine any time soon. Fortunately, there are a lot of restaurants in Austin to choose from.
We then decided to go to a bar that was recommended to us by the bar tender. It was one mile away and I absolutely insisted that we would be able to walk the mile. Little did I know, most of the walk was uphill, and the humidity was not kind. We stepped on a patch of land and just sunk into the mud - even the ground couldn't handle the humidity. We quickly headed back to her apartment and finished the evening off with a movie.
The second day in Austin was my first official day of summer school. I am taking French this semester. Like Japan, France has a similar teaching program called TAPIF. Unlike Japan, TAPIF has a language requirement. I took French in middle and high school, but I decided that it would be best to start from French one as a refresher. I am still very hopeful and looking forward to teach with JET, but after JET I hope to continue to teach abroad for the foreseeable future. It'll be nice to have all of my requirements completed once my time with JET comes to an end. Because this French class is a summer class it is fast paced and has about four hours of work each day Monday-Thursday. Needless to stay, I was locked in the bedroom for most of the day getting adjusted to being a student again.
Also on the second day of my Austin stay, my sister flew into town! We planned that she would ride back with me on the last leg of my cross-country trip. Once we picked her up from the airport and ate, she took a nap while I worked on homework. In the evening, we decided to hang out in my friend's pool. It was great to catch up and avoid the heat.
On the third and final day, I started by bringing my car in to get an oil change and I am very happy to report that my car had a clean bill of health this time. In the afternoon we went to Lady Bird Lake. The "lake" is very narrow and resembles a slow flowing river. If you follow the lake on the map, it actually connects to the Colorado River. Regardless of what type of body of water it truly is, I had a really great time kayaking.
This was my sister's first day dealing with the humidity. Similar to my experience in Washington D.C., she got sick from the heat and we had to cut it short. Heat exhaustion is no joke!
That evening, my sister stayed in while my friend and I went out to dinner at Swift's Attic. Swift's Attic is an expensive farm to fork type restaurant. The two of us shared the "mash ups" appetizer which is deep fried mashed potato balls with cheese inside. It was as good as it sounded! We also both ordered the "Pad Thai" which was not like any other pad Thai I have tried. The taste was fine, but the consistency was more like a stew than a noodle dish. We ordered food for my sister and each one of the three desserts they had on the menu. The three of us shared the desserts and were disappointed with all of them.
It made me so happy to see a good friend on the trip. I have been so proud and inspired watching this particular friend grow. She's a hard worker and was open to moving to a brand new city in a different state solo. It is the perfect time for self discovery. I am excited for her on this new journey.