Well, I can hardly believe I’m saying this but it’s already been four months since we moved here!! Part of me feels like we’ve been here at least six, but the other part still thinks of us as the “newbies” around here! When we first got here, I remember noticing all of these small things that seemed so different from Tennessee! And I vowed to myself I would keep a list of them, which I have (sort of) done sporadically on random sheets of paper I find when something comes to me and notes on my phone.
But this is the real deal: New England, through the lenses of the “newbies.”
+ Snow. When we moved here, there was a good foot of solid snow (turned ice) already on the ground. In the first few months, it seemed like it snowed every other day… and it never melted! It just kept adding to the the current pile on the ground and would then freeze into an ice block. It was at least two months before we saw a single blade of grass in our new state!! I’m thankful we moved halfway through the winter… that way we can experience what people say are the “best summers ever!” before we endure our first winter here in its entirety.
+ Crosswalks. There are crosswalks everywhere! And not just at traffic lights, like you would think. There are crosswalks in the middle of the street and people just take off across them without a shred of concern cars may not see them and keep driving. I may or may not have almost hit a few pedestrians who were crossing the crosswalk at night. But I’ve learned my lessons, so now I watch for people like a hawk when I get near those things!
+ Traffic. This is definitely more due to this city being bigger than Johnson City, but the traffic is horrible!! It always takes me longer than I think to get places because I haven’t learned to factor in the traffic that is destined to be in my way. Eventually, I will stop being late to things… I promise.
+ Walmart. No one shops at Walmart around here. That was so funny to us when we arrived because we bought everything at Walmart in Tennessee! Groceries, toiletries, office supplies, etc. We had to adjust to a whole new line of grocery stores we had never heard of before – and, unfortunately, we also had to say goodbye to some brands we love – like Mayfield ice cream! And Daisy sour cream! (That was the worst one for me, I’ve been eating it my whole life… I can’t live without my “dollop of daisy!”)
+ Candlepin Bowling. There is only one bowling alley in our area that has what I would call “regular” bowling! Candlepin is the norm up here – the pins are super skinny and the ball is smaller. You also get three tries each time you bowl! It’s definitely fun, but it was so strange when I saw it the first time. I have decided I like it better than “regular” bowling, but shh don’t tell anyone – people are already telling me I’ve conformed to being a New Englander! 😉
+ Jughandles. You can’t turn left at a lot of lights here! You have to turn off to the right into what they call a “jughandle” that spits you back out at a traffic light, through which you can go straight (which would have been like turning left originally) or take a left to go the opposite direction you were going. I’ve struggled a lot with remembering to take those when I need to turn left.
+ Day trips!! Because everything up here is so close together, there are so many fabulous places to go! Now that the weather is finally becoming beautiful, we are going to take day trips to nearby cities every Saturday that we are free! I’m so excited to do some great exploring.
+ Wicked. Up here, wicked means “really” and people use it all the time in conversation. Ie “Those cupcakes were wicked good!” Note: this is not just a trendy saying for young people, like it was when I was in junior high. People of all ages say it and I’ve even seen a business called “Wicked Good Cupcakes!”
+ Dinner. We are used to eating dinner around 5:30-6:00 most nights, but every time we go to a restaurant around then, they are absolutely dead! People up here tend to eat dinner later – which makes sense, since so many people have long commutes to and from work.
+ Ice cream. Apparently, New Englanders consume more ice cream per capita than any other region of the United States… so, clearly, we moved to the right place. We have also discovered Hayward’s ice cream stand (for you Ohio people, it’s like the K, but on steroids with actual homemade ice cream in 50 flavors!) and it’s hard to stay away for very long. It’s a good thing I’ve already found some running buddies because I need them now more than ever.
+ Alcohol. In the South, it’s not surprising to find Christians who abstain from alcohol because they think it is evil and sinful. New England does not have a lot of those southern Christian cultural “rules,” so that’s not the case here. Getting drunk is absolutely seen as a sin, but even some of the most conservative Christians drink socially often. So it’s very typical for Christians to get together and have some wine or go out for drinks.
+ Babies. When we first moved here and got plugged into the community with people our age (twenties to early thirties), there are a lot of couples who are married who aren’t sure if they want kids. And that’s okay. The first time I heard a few couples talking so openly about being unsure if they wanted kids, I wanted to jump up and shout praises to God! I didn’t realize it until that moment, but in the South, I felt like it’s the expectation to have kids, so the questions are never, “Do you want kids?” But instead always, “When are you going to have kids?!” To be honest, hearing our new friends talking about these things was so freeing to me! Jacob and I are very young, so we have plenty of time to figure this out, but it was such a relief to not be the odd guys out when trying to figure out if and when we want to have kids.
All in all, I absolutely adore New England so far. I can see us living here and enjoying it for a long time. Most days, I come home from whatever evening activities we have just so overwhelmingly thankful for where God has led us. More than anything, we have learned how much New England is an area so desperate for the gospel. It was once an area of rich faith, but that faith has been squashed by independence and self-reliance. It is absolutely a challenge to be here and feel the weight of that need – but we have a community determined to live intentionally and they’re partnering with us in that! I wrote a little earlier this week about the series our church is going called “The Art of Neighboring” – and that’s what it’s all about: intentional living. Doing life with the people around you and letting the gospel shine through your actions, your love, and (yes!) your words.
So here’s to a season where we aren’t anxiously awaiting for “what’s next.” Here’s to settling and growing and learning and doing hard things with these people I’ve already come to love so dearly.