Culture Shock in West Texas

Now that we’re settled, for the most part, (still tying up a few administrative things *cough* driver’s licenses, and waiting for some furniture *cough* The Man says he’s building everything), I have had some time to take in a little more of Texas, or San Angelo, to be exact. I’m aware that other parts of the state have their own cultures too, and rightfully so, Texas is a big place. And just like California, driving a couple hundred miles in any direction will place you in a totally different world with its own unique ecosystem. So for all intents and purposes, this Texas culture shock i’m experiencing is limited to San Angelo, and the Concho Valley.

But on second thought, even on the drive to get here, I came across a few things I had never seen before in life, namely, cowboy boot wearing teenagers driving SUVs with spinners. That was in New Mexico, and I think me and The Man hopped back into our car equally confused after our bathroom break at the gas station.

Now forward, ho! One thing I don’t want to do is mope and commiserate about all the things I miss from Los Angeles. This move is about change, and adjusting, and transition, and transformation. And to be frank, there’s a ton I don’t miss. Buh-bye traffic and smog! But really, Texas is a different world.

Keep reading to learn about the 5 things that shocked me most about West Texas.

1. Diversity
In LA, I literally lived in a neighborhood that had every culture you could imagine. Maybe we were lacking a bit on the European front, but we were in the heart of Koreatown and Little Bangladesh, there was no shortage of Salvadoran and Mexican restaurants, a handful of black people, and everything else sprinkled in. It was lovely. I didn’t feel out of place walking down the street. When the Orange Troll was elected, I knew for the most part, we were all suffering together and were unanimously disappointed in our country. I knew going to the neighborhood parks, my son would see many kids that looked like him (shades of brown), and many who did not. I lived in the most populous neighborhood in the entire city, diversity ran through it’s blood.

Now, in West Texas, things are different. There is far less representation, and it’s fairly clear to me, that some folks who live here, don’t see a family like ours too often. I mean, a black woman and a Korean man was even rare in Los Angeles. But here, it sometimes feels like people don’t know what to make of us.

Luckily, we roll to the beat of our own drum, so I don’t put too much energy in caring what anyone else thinks of us. But thoughts and actions are two very different things. How people treat us is much more telling, and hard to ignore.

I will preface this by saying, when I first started dating The Man, we’d often get stares and comments from Korean elders in our neighborhood, but he always shut that shit down with the quickness. Here, we have literally walked into stores and not been greeted, only to have another person (less melanated than ourselves) walk in and be given the keys to the city.

All jokes aside, there is definitely a little undercurrent here that initially made me feel uncomfortable. We have met  a few other black folks, and a few other Koreans, even. But the town is overwhelmingly white and Tejano (Folks with Mexican heritage, living in Texas). But, this is also a military town as well as a college town, so phew, we know there is diversity throughout, it just has different business hours than we’re used to.

2. “Green” Factor
One of the things I have grown passionate about in the last two years is mine and my family’s impact on the environment. We’ve become more conscious of what we put in and on our bodies, and what we put back out into the world. We cut the unnecessary out and find alternatives to the bad habits that were wreaking havoc on the environment. Things like plastic bags, plastics, in general, toxic cleaning chemicals, our use of water, and picking up our dog’s poo. I’m registered green, I believe in global warming and the impact consumerism has on it, I can’t wait to be able to afford solar panels for our home, we dabble in composting, and grow some of our own food. Overall, we aim to lead a pretty green life.

West Texas, though…not so environmentally friendly, which is actually ironic, because the surrounding environment here is worth protecting, at the very least (more on that one below). Ok, so first off, everyone here drives a truck. Moms, dads, grandmas, teenagers, everyone! There is no shortage of 20 or so car lots around town, touting 4x4s and the likes. Trucks are serious business, and perhaps because the gas prices are so much lower than a place like LA, this probably won’t change for a long time. I have literally seen only 1 Prius since I’ve been here. Compare that to every other car being a Prius in LA. But surprisingly, the smog is still pretty nonexistent around here. Again, that might be because of the surrounding environment.

At the stores, plastic bags are like candy. I have never appreciated LA, and now California’s ban on plastic bags so much as I have now. We’ve always had reusable bags for the most part back home, but when we got here we didn’t have them so our first couple of trips to the stores had us leaving with plastic bags with 1 or 2 items in them. The baggers serisouly have no qualms about giving you more and more and more plastic bags. When things don’t seem like they’ll fit, they don’t try to make them, they just open a new bag. This actually made me pretty sad, and even though I recycle those dozens of plastic bags as trash bags, I don’t plan on collecting many more of them. I’m all stocked up on the reusable bags, and pan to petition to Wal-Mart (a big entity in town) or even the city council to consider lessening their plastic bag impact. I feel like most people not accustom to this practice find it pretentious (I’m looking at you residents of San Bernardino county and all the shit you talked when the plastic bag ban passed), but when you consider the amount of waste generated, it’s a little sickening.

Though people likely recycle their plastic bags as I do for trash bins, recycling is not so easy to do here. Apparently everything in your recycling bin has to be completely clean or the garbage collectors will toss it back in. That’ absurd considering any food material is actually biodegradable and plastics are washed in their recycling process…right?

I would have to say, this is really one of the hardest things to accept about San Angelo. There is no Green Party activity, it seems, and the town voted overwhelmingly for the orange goblin, so it’s not even a conversation that seems to be had around here. Womp. Womp.

Also, while we’re on the subject of “green”…cannabis is very illegal here. Unlike in LA, where everywhere you go, weed is practically thrown at you.

Possession of less than 2 grams can lead to jail time!!! A law was passed last year to allow the use of CBD for patients with severe seizures, but the governor says he’s not coming around to any other legalization while he’s in office.

3. Shopping
Ok, I bet you’re waiting on me to get to a good thing about living here. Don’t worry, there are definitely upsides to living in a big small town in West Texas. When it comes to shopping, there’s a little bad and a little good. First, the bad to get it out of the way. Wal-Mart is a big player in this town. 2 Supercenters and 2 neighborhood markets. For smaller towns, I can see the benefit of having a store like Wal-Mart, though I greatly wish the company would at least rethink its labor practices as well as its environmental impact so much more considering it is literally the largest employer in over half of the nation. They need more corporate responsibility for the amount of space they hold.

I’m not much on shopping in the mall, but if that was your speed, you might be a little disappointed, as it’s only 1 story. But, when you look at all the other shopping options in this town, I’d say take the L on the mall anyway.

San Angelo must be the antique capital of the world…maybe? (It’s actually Lancaster, PA0, but whatever. There are a lot fo them here, and they are amazing. Not only is strolling through antique malls an amazingly fun family day date (beware of sporadic toddler arms, though), you will find some really cool stuff that you can’t find anywhere else, and that you can actually afford. And, it’s old, so it’s well-made. The irony. But today’s big box stores make stuff that you’ll have to replace sooner or later so you spend more money. It’s silly. You’ll also find some really great vintage jewelry and clothing, too. As I type, i’m regretting not getting this bad ass black velvet hat today. I might have to go back tomorrow to cop it.

Cool skull glasses I found for $5

     

Aside from “things” shopping, the grocery stores here (not counting Wal-Mart in this bunch) are pretty respectable, too. HEB has become our fast favorite because of the many store brand organic options, wide selection of fruits and vegetables (even things I couldn’t find in my local Ralph’s in LA), plus it’s bulk section and natural products. This store has it all, even a legit toy aisle!! I didn’t even know about the natural products aisle until my second trip when I asked if they carried Dr. Bronner’s soaps and essential oils. I assumed I’d have to go to the waaaayyy overpriced natural food store in town or buy online. But, to my surprise, they had an aisle that was beautifully stocked with EOs, Sal Suds, and even black soap. I’m geeked about this. HEB is accessible, though huge, but it doesn’t feel at all pretentious or stuffy like some of the natural foods stores in LA (Lassen’s, Erewhon, yep, i’m talking to you). And like I mentioned, they do a great job of offering organic store brands that are local as well as quality meats that don’t look questionable upon purchase. So yeah, California, step ya game up. Texas groceries are the business.

4. Outdoor Areas/Parks
I can go on and on, can’t understand how I last so long…oh wait, I’m not Drake, I won’t steal Too Short’s whole verse to make my point…

 

A view of San Angelo and the Concho River

I could go on and on about the parks and outdoor amenities here. They are abundant, and really well kept. Back in LA, we had to drive at least 20 minutes (with traffic) to get to what would be considered our neighborhood park. Here, there are at least 5 or more within that same drive time. The other bright side about the parks and outdoor areas here are that trash cans are generously placed. You don’t have to walk to the other side of the park to throw away garbage, and it seems like this keeps people on their toes. The most trash i’ve seen are a couple of water bottle caps scattered here and there.

Also, there are tons of outdoor activities, from hikes, to fishing, to river boating on the Concho River. I haven’t done any of this yet, but I’m really excited to still have lots of places to explore with my family this summer. One of our biggest reasons for this move, aside from The Man getting a job offer here, was wanting a backyard for our son. San Angelo delivers, and there are plenty of trees and grassy areas for him to enjoy all around town, too.

me and my boy at the park

5. Food
Last, but certainly not least is the Texas food experience. This is a little good and a little bad. There are very few Korean restaurants, so I am about to go to Korean cooking school via the internet to learn to make all of his favorites (and mine too, because let’s face it, Korean food is the bomb).

Oh, and don’t let me start on the Mexican food. I have heard this before, that Texas Mexican food is quite different from California’s. People say it’s more Tex-Mex and less authentic. I can vouch for that (so far), thought the tamales here are puro. But everything else tastes a little over seasoned and just different from the Mexican food I was blessed with in LA.

There are also very few “healthy” options. I didn’t come here expecting Cafe Gratitude on every corner, but I was at least hoping for some veggie friendly places since I know how much Texas loves its meat. I need balance and it would help to have at the very least, a Chipotle to deliver on that front, or some place that has an amazing salad. Ok, so that’s the bad. Now, the good. I cannot deny how much I love BBQ and a good burger. Sorry vegan friends, I’m working on it, but the temptation is oh so real. No one makes BBQ or soul food like my dad, but I had a pretty yummy brisket sandwich that can keep me satisfied until the next family holiday. And as for finding a great burger, there are quite a few places that have been recommended to us, but if we’re just looking at a fast food offering, have you heard of Whataburger?? Oh my goodness! I’m in love. The first night we got in, The Man made a 2 am run to get us burgers and fries and I knew it was real. I’ve had it at least 5 times in the past month (partly because we didn’t get our fridge and stove until the second week), but also in part of me taking advantage of The Man being out of town and not wanting to cook. If you have a Whatburger near you, please, stop what you’re doing and go get a burger and fries right now. Their fries are hands down the best. Over McDonalds, over In-N-Out. So there you have it Texas wins when it come to a bomb ass fast food burger, I can make my own salad.

So, mamas, have any of you moved and been surprised by how your new town is different from where you used to call home? I’m interested in hearing other stories, too!

xo

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The Black Mama

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