By now I’m pretty sure that anyone with internet access has seen those “6 things” memes. You know. “What people think I do, what I actually do, blah-blah-blah…” You know the ones. Recently I came across one about living in Washington. Have you seen it? No? Here, let me show you:
(Click image to enlarge)
I thought it was funny but didn’t really think about it much. Until recently.
When my boyfriend and I made the decision to relocate from Florida to Washington last year several of my friends expressed their concern about the crime rate. ???
“Oh!!” I’d say. “Not D.C.; Washington state.”
“But it rains so much there!” (Uh… are you kidding me? We live in south Florida. It rains every. single. day.)
Me: “Not Seattle. Southeast Washington.”
Them: ::blank stare::
Me: “Closer to Oregon and Idaho.”
Them: ::still blank::
Me: “Three and a half hours east of Seattle.”
Them: “Oh… why?”
I guess I can’t blame people for wondering why. I suppose our decision to move from Miami to the Tri-Cities would seem odd to some. And if I can be real for a minute here, as much as most native Miamians complain about how much we hate Miami, we still tend to be kind of Miami-centric. Kind of like “I can talk crap about my family, but if you do it, I’ll kick your butt.” That sort of thing.
But here we were trading in palm trees, salty ocean breezes, diverse ethnic cuisine, and multiculturalism, for desert brush, dusty wind storms, Bob’s Burger’s, and “the ‘burbs.” What isn’t blatantly obvious, at first, is that we also gave up unrelenting year-round humidity, six months of hurricane warnings annually, a densely overcrowded population, and a ridiculously overpriced housing market, in exchange for four actual seasons, fairly mild winters, lesser populace, and ownership of a brand-spanking-new, 1400-sq-ft house where the mortgage is lower than what I was paying in rent for an 800-sq-ft apartment. Along with that came a chance to be closer to my “in-laws” (my BF grew up in the Columbia Basin area and lived here until relocating to Miami Beach 16 years ago), live three blocks away from our closest friends, and the ability to visit breathtaking sites, like Mt. Rainier or Palouse Falls, at a moment’s notice.
The thing about that meme is that it was cute, maybe even a little clever, but it was void. Void of all the cool things I’ve noticed about this community during my eight short months of residence here.
For one thing, it left out all the great locally-owned restaurants – like Ice Harbor Brewery, Uptown Restaurant, or Grill on Gage – at which I’ve had amazing meals. The meme blatantly overlooked the unique shopping venues located here, such as Greenie’s or Octopus Garden. And where is the mention of the fantastic farmers’ markets or Viera’s Bakery? There’s no love at all for all the independent coffee houses, like Barracuda or Crazy Monkey. And the meme totally ignores the awesome laid-back vibe of Jack-Sons Bar or Sharehouse Coffee.
It didn’t talk about the sweet, baby-faced cashier at Target that always asks me about my day when he’s ringing up my purchases. It also didn’t mention all the great people I’ve had the chance to meet here, whether through mutual friends or by attending events at Room To Think. It completely forgets all about the lack of vehicles crowding the roads, the abundance of open spaces and blue skies, the politeness of Tri-Cities’ residents, the affordable cost of living, and the charm of a small town commingled with the anonymity of a big city.
I admit, moving here was (and still is) a bit of a culture shock for me. There are things I miss about Miami. I miss my sister, my girlfriends, the sound and smell of the Atlantic Ocean, the aroma of Cuban coffee and crispy deep-fried croquetas from Sergio’s Café, and the ethnic diversity found all throughout Dade County (I don’t think there’s anywhere else where you will find Haitian, Jamaican, Nicaraguan, Cuban, and Thai restaurants all occupying the same block). I miss overhearing conversations in the fast-paced, clipped Spanish spoken by Cubans and Puerto Ricans. I miss knowing where I’m going and how to get there without a GPS (although my road rage has diminished greatly since moving here). I miss going to Miami Heat games. And I really, REALLY miss Publix (the greatest grocery store chain to ever exist on the face of the earth).
But as I sit here in my quiet home office in my lovely new house, looking out the window at the gorgeous blue sky and the silhouette of Red Mountain in the background, seeing the neighborhood kids riding their bikes down the street, and making plans to see my family-in-law this weekend, while enjoying the tranquility and peace of mind I’ve found here, I know that we’ve made the right choice.
Miami will always be my heart, but Tri-Cities is now my home.
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