About 2 and a half years ago, my husband (who at the time was my fiance) and I decided we were going to move to Alabama from New England. He wanted to finish his bachelor's degree and the closest school that handled his program was in Birmingham. So after I graduated in May of 2010, we visited Birmingham for Orientation at the school. It was hot, really hot, like flip flops, shorts, and tank tops and air conditioning hot. It usually isn't that hot in Maine until the last two weeks in August. Nobody in Maine even puts their air conditioning in the window until July at the earliest, but in Alabama the buildings are built with air conditioning. That should have been a warning, but of course I didn't listen. Listening to subtle messages/hints has never been a strong suit of mine.
We arrived late in the evening. The ride in the taxi from the airport to the hotel was frightening, like terrifying. Little did I know that was going to be a theme of all the driving we would do down here. The taxi driver was very nice. The hotel employees were very nice. Everyone was very nice. People smiled at you in the street when you walked past them. It was so different from New England. When you walk past someone in Portland, or Boston, or Burlington, people didn't look at you or acknowledge you unless you were about to run into them; everyone really minds their own business and has their own personal space. It's what I grew up with, what I was used to, and what I liked. It was so strange to experience southern hospitality.
Over the weekend, we went to the school's orientation. It was a pretty standard orientation. I learned pretty quickly that the school was not set up for non-traditional students. The orientation parts I attended were designed for parents whose children were going to school. The people from the school told the parents that even though the parents may be paying for school, the students were the only people the school could talk to about grades, tuition, classes, et cetera. The parents were all upset that the school wouldn't disclose that information to them. I remember wondering how these kids were ever going to grow up if their parents wanted to micromanage every aspect of their lives forever. After the orientation, we needed to find someplace to eat. There was a Greek restaurant about two blocks away from the hotel, the perfect walking distance. The food was AMAZING! It was a cross between the traditional Greek food and cooking styles I had grown up with, and southern food and southern cooking style, which was completely new to me. I had hush puppies for the first time. They were absolutely delicious! I also discovered crawfish, mudbugs as the locals call them. They tasted like a lobster and a shrimp made babies. Oh so sweet and tasty!! They were grilled with olive oil, Greek spices, and hot sauce; a combination I could not have ever imagined, but oh so delicious.
Now hold the phone. I made an enormous discovery while we were visiting for orientation. I discovered sweet tea. Not that crap that you can get at McDonalds in Maine for a dollar, but real, delicious, Southern Sweet Tea. It's very strongly brewed tea with enough sugar to induce diabetes in one sip. It's why the south is heavier and has more people with diabetes, but it is a nearly spiritual experience when it is made correctly. I love sweet tea. I still don't know how to make it, which is probably for the better, since I'm sure I would weigh a great deal more than I already do.
After our visit to Birmingham, we went home. We talked about moving some more and decided once and for all that we would give it a try. We went about telling our friends what we are going to do and everyone asked, "Why Birmingham? Why the South??" We are stilling trying to answer them.
So at the end of July, we packed up all our things from our respective parents' houses. My aunt gave us an amazing living room set. Everything fit into a 16 foot moving truck and my husband's car (My father was going to drive my car down in a few weeks). It was rather disheartening to see 5 years of our life together crammed into a single truck. Everything from our first date, to the dorms, to our first apartment, and our engagement thus far fit in to a 16 by 8 by 8 foot truck with room to spare. My father was going to drive the moving truck for us, and my husband and I would ride down in his car. I bought walkie talkies so we could communicate about gas and bathroom breaks. On Wednesday we said our final goodbyes to our loved ones in Maine. Thursday morning, way way way to early in the morning for my taste, we started driving towards our future.