Tuesday, April 27, 2010


There was a parade today in San Antonio, for the deployment of the 162 aerial support and medical company. They’re going to Afghanistan in the next few days, so outside the Alamo there were flags and uniforms and speeches. We only started watching when the presentation was probably half way through, but there were lots of families standing around. The general (female) spoke about these medics having faith in themselves, their training and equipment. Their equipment? Do they tell the British soldiers that too?

I can’t imagine what it must feel like to watch a member of your family standing in this parade, about to fly to Afghanistan for six months, and to hear that they’re going to fight the ‘war on terror’. Whatever you feel about the war, there’s no doubting the support these soldiers have here as individuals.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I feel I have been in the supermarket for around four days, and yet I’m still reduced to eating chicken nuggets for tea. With veg rather than chips, admittedly, but I still don’t understand how such a long period in Kroger’s can translate to such a poor effort.

We had the Saturday and Sunday in Houston in the end. We wondered about hiring a car to drive to NASA (no buses at the weekend), but the weather forecast was dire, so we went to the Museum District instead, and then had a wander in Hermann Park in the afternoon. It was the last night of Cats at the outdoor theatre, but unfortunately anyone singing ‘Memory’ brings me out in hives after the same girl sang it at every single school concert, I decided not to go. It turns out that this was the one night that George W made an appearance, as the production was involved with the Barbara Bush Foundation. But I got to sit at home eating cheese-filled deep-crust pepperoni pizza with the new series of Glee. Sadly W wasn’t singing, otherwise I’d have been gutted to have missed it.

Friday, April 16, 2010


So it turns out that at American sports events, you don’t have to have just one seat. The four of us went to see the Houston Rockets get their butts kicked by the New Orleans Hornets at the basketball the other night. Nosebleed seats in the US mean you still get a good view, and a good opportunity to people watch as everyone seems to shift places and have a wander around every now and again. We four (two Aussies, Dutch Marielle and me) seemed to be the only ones who stayed put.

It was also a pleasant surprise that unlike in the UK, at half time (or every time out in this case), the most important thing seems to be keeping the audience entertained, and on a grand scale. We had everything from the regulation cheerleaders to catapults firing T-shirts, dance-offs, players with names like 'Chase Bundinger' (or was it Budinger?) and a custard pie fight, in which a giant teddy bear smashed enormous cakes into the faces of the assembled line up with enough force to knock them off their chairs. This was right up my street, and I wish we’d been nearer the front.

We got to see the senior cheer team, as well as to watch the very large (but very friendly) father in front of us encourage his six year old to eat a box of popcorn about the same size as the boy himself. Sport (or at least watching sport) seems to be very inclusive here. All in all, a satisfying evening.

And at home, the increasingly vigorous attempts to catch both the racoon that is living in my house and the possum that is terrorizing the office are still proving unsuccessful. The possum has been seen all over the place, except in the cages which have been set for it, which are usually occupied by neighbourhood cats which have fallen for the bait.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Church on Sunday morning. 16,000 people, and a live show to boot. I have to say, I went in expecting to come out pretty hacked off. It wasn’t as crazy I’d expected, just larger.

Walking in was like that bit in Gladiator when he enters the auditorium. Lakewood church is a massive stadium, where the service starts off with a rock concert, and everything is filmed for the live broadcast. It’s run by Joel and Victoria Osteen, with his mother doing prayer services and the brother apparently being involved as well. Saige told one of the men ushering people in that we were both new to Texas, and didn’t really know what we were doing. Consequently we ended up on row two, where we got a very good view, but felt pretty conspicuous. People were extremely friendly, and there was only one time I almost choked on my Whethers Original (give generously to Lakelands church, it’ll make God bless you more), which wasn’t bad going in two hours really.

Other than that, we cycled around most of the afternoon. Other people on bikes wave or say hello. Cyclists are a rare species here, we have to stick together.

It’s beautiful at the moment, hot but not humid yet. Lots of green, not many bugs. I’ve also now found that there’s a Target store round the corner, so the frozen pizza supply is secure.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Saturday 10th April - politics at the kids fair

I now have a very creaky, very silver bike. The Salvation Army came up trumps, and it was only $68. Bargain. They sell absolutely everything in there, and it was rammed this morning.

We worked for a couple of hours this morning, catching up a bit and filing. We then decided to try and take a trip on the river, but because there were freak rain showers this morning, the boat trip was called off. Instead, we three had a walk into the downtown business bit of Houston, where there were a lot of shiny banks, and, randomly, a kiddie's fair.

There was an intern just next to the face painting stand who was campaigning for Bill White, the democrat candidate for Texas governor at the elections in November. Rick Perry's been in office for around 10 years. His name had been thrown in in talks in the office yesterday. He's only granted clemency to a death row prisoner once; Kenneth Foster was convicted of murder and sent to death row in 1997. Perry granted clemency after a recommendation from the Texas Board of Paroles and Pardons in 2007. Foster had been convicted of capital murder alongside three others. One, the man who actually killed the victim, has since been executed. Two others received prison sentences. Clemency was eventually granted as Foster had been the driver of a car the killer got into, and denies having anything to do with the killing itself.

Perry has denied clemency even when it has been recommended by the Board of Paroles and Pardons in the past. Whether Bill White would act any differently is an unknown, but what's interesting is that while he's running as a Democrat, he's not exactly what you'd call left-wing. The reason he has even a shot at Governor in Texas is because Perry increasingly seems to be aligning himself with the ultra-right 'Tea Party Movement', which also has Sarah Palin as one of it's main backers. Bill White can only hope that some things are too far to the right for Texas locals.

Houston start off...

In America, the Salvation Army sell cars. I know this because there’s a big Sally Army superstore around the corner from my house. I went in to try and get a bike today. While I think trying to cycle on the roads might be a bad idea, all the pavements are so quiet that you can pretty much get everywhere without having to get off.

This is the first night in the house. I was looking forward to a delivery pizza as I haven’t found the nearest supermarket yet, but after ten minutes of having to put on a Houston accent because the pizza guy couldn’t understand a word I said, it turned out they don’t deliver to my area. I think they’re worried they’d get shot. ;) So it was cereal, a banana and the leftovers of an easteregg brought from home for dinner.

I’m slowly working my way through the ‘Friday Night Lights’ series, but have just had to switch it off for a minute to work out what the noise was coming from the bedroom. Turns out it’s insects outside, which make an incredible blare a bit like a high-pitched fridge. It’s amazing, they sound like they must be the size of the average domestic cat.

Anyway, tomorrow’s an attempt to find a bike, maybe try and get out to take some photos, buy a cell phone and head downtown…