Monday, December 07, 2009

Where in the world are we? Why are we here? What have we been doing? When are we coming "home"?

In 6 days time, we will catch a taxi, an interstate train, the "L" train, a domestic flight, connect to an international flight and arrive in Sydney for the first time in 18 months. Some our our friends still think we live in Canada, so its time to offer you the basics to put you on a similar page to us (or at least orientate you to the right country) before we arrive down-under.

After graduating from Regent College in April, we SOLD our apartment in Vancouver and in August drove a U-Haul truck 3881 km across the North America and ended up in South Bend Indiana. Why? Because Jessica was brilliant (and lucky) enough to be awarded a 5 year fully-funded PhD scholarship at the prestigious University of Notre Dame. For the next 5-6 years we plan to be in South Bend as Jess completes her Ph.D in English Literature (more details to come from her in a follow-up post (post #2)).

We followed the Lewis & Clark Expedition trail in reverse across the country. 
A chain-establishment we passed in Iowa with a rather misleading name...

Where in the world is South Bend Indiana? Good question... Lets start with the Indiana part. I was surprised that most Americans I quizzed prior to coming here knew very little about the state of Indiana, about as much as a sports-loving Aussie did actually: Indiana is the home of the Indianapolis 500 Indy Car race and a place where basketball is popular. That's it? No, Indianian's also have a well-known nickname "Hoosiers". That's it.

I made a critical mistake early-on with my family by primarily associating South Bend with being 90 minutes drive east of Chicago. This error has led to: my parents thinking that we were on central time, nope we are on east-coast time; my two Grandmas thinking that we live in Chicago, nope we don't even live in the state of Illinois; and my Dad assuming that we would return the U-Haul truck back to a Chicago depot since South Bend was so small, nope South Bend has four U-Haul depots of its own.

To avoid any such confusion, I will describe South Bend on its own terms. South Bend is in Northern Indiana, only a few miles from the Michigan state border, and a half-hour drive to the Indiana shores of Lake Michigan. You could accurately describe South Bend as a "college town" as it is the home to Notre Dame, an Indiana University campus, a Purdue University campus and Bethel College. South Bend qualifies as a university town, because it has many students in relation to the size of the total population. But, South Bend isn't just a university town - the St. Joseph River  proved to be a spring of economic activity in the city's glory years when the Studebaker family built cars here. But, since Studebaker's demise in 1963, the era following brought the nickname the "rust-belt" and unfortunate economic decline to this area of the country. South Bend experiences 4 genuine seasons - a humid Summer, a spectacular Fall, "lake-effect" snow and ice-storms in the Winter, and a brief Spring.

There is no doubt what the biggest event(s) of the year is in South Bend... Notre Dame College Football home games. For seven Saturdays in the Fall, South Bend is pumping! Beginning Thursday of game-weekend you will see people sitting by the roadside in lawn chairs buying and selling game tickets, parking passes, parking stalls in their yards and beds in their houses. On Saturday morning, five hours before kick-off, traffic starts to swell to the point where many locals simply don't drive their cars on game-day. Before the game, police change the street traffic patterns so all roads leading to the university are converted to one-way channels to get fans to the game. Game-day is so predominate here, that year round traffic signs point to parking lots that only get filled seven days a year. To put game-day in perspective, the population of South Bend and its sister city Mishawaka is a combined 150,000 people, while Notre Dame's stadium seats 80,795 fans and has been sold out for every game (except one) since 1966. It is also estimated that an extra 20,000 fans who don't have tickets show-up to campus to take in the elaborate festivities that the University puts on and to soak in the atmosphere as they "tailgate "party all day and night long and watch the game on portable TV's from the car park. I'll follow-up with another post (post #3) from our experience as season ticket holders this year.

I kid you not, football fans buy these tailgate "accessories"

So as Jess has been studying hard getting settled into her Ph.D program, I have been... in limbo: waiting for my working permit and permanent residency to be approved by the US government... house-husband: trying to take-on more of the domestic duties to free Jess up to read and write... organiser: buying a house... DIY tradie guy: getting the house ready to move-into, which finally came to fruition in the last week of November. Another post (post #4) will follow with some pics and details about our DIY efforts in our new home.
Our place: a 1946, 3 bedroom, 2 story plus a basement, Cape-Cod style house 

As a side-note for the Sydney-siders, you don't want to know how cheap you can buy a nice house for in the rust-belt... to give you an idea, a not-so-nice house could be paid for by many people's credit card spending limit.

1 comment:

Em and Gav said...

new house looks great guys! congrats!
look forward to catchin up on stories from the last couple of years in Jan!