The Yoga of Aransas Pass

The Yoga of Aransas Pass

19060200_10155306289827808_2725602818670418768_nGoing to Aransas Pass, Texas for the weekend is like taking a weekend-long yoga class. It will test you both mentally and physically, but in the end, you’ll leave refreshed and renewed.

Aransas Pass is part of a cluster of small coastal towns about 20 minutes outside of Corpus Christi, TX. Aransas Pass was once a booming shrimping town, but these days it’s a popular fishing spot.  A place to stop when passing through. Folks are usually headed to the more popular Tourist Spot, Port Aransas.

Nowhere to go, nowhere to be, my yoga instructor whispers.

The breeze in Aransas Pass agrees. The air here is damp and salty. It’s pervasive, like huffing saline spray. It sticks to hair and skin like cigarette smoke.

My father in law lives in a refurbished bookshop on one of the town’s main drags. Out of this two-story building, he runs a thriving kayak rental and fishing tour business.

The building presents a strange mix of domesticity and commerce. The crab-grassed backyard has a plastic playhouse for his young son. A grill. Two outdoor showers and bathrooms. The wooden fences are lined with kayaks.  On any given morning, I could take a shower in one of the bathrooms, and walk out to a gathering of eager strangers clad in Patagonia shorts, Reefs, and designer sunglasses.

The backyard gatherings happen to be my father-in-law’s pre-kayak tour orientations.  As life jackets are passed around and fitted, my father-in-law will explain the dangers of the waters. And that he might yell at you during the tour. It’s for your safety, he assures. Don’t be offended.

When we visit, my husband usually helps with the business. Something he’s done most every summer since he was in high school.  From morning to mid-afternoon, my husband could be found hoisting plastic kayaks onto the trailer for delivery or rinsing off used kayaks and life jackets post-tour.

It’s during that time I’m asked to wait. And wait, I do. It’s not unlike chair pose. Except less painful.

Go lower, deeper into the pose, the instructor coos as I clench my teeth.

Certainly, I could help with the business. But I think I still seem like a guest. That’s what Nick’s oldest sister explained to me one late morning as we drove to deliver a couple extra paddles to one of the kayak landings.

So, I wait.

Focus on breath, the instructor reminds me.

Sometimes it feels like a hunger strike. Nick’s folks in Aransas don’t eat on a regular schedule.  Sometimes it’s 4 pm before Nick gets a lunch break and he drives me into nearby Rockport for lunch. It could be 10 pm before we fire up the grill for an evening cookout. When it’s finally time to eat, I tear into my food with a veracity of a hungry teenage boy. Everything–even burnt chicken or a cheap granola bar–tastes better.

Tree pose; Focus your Drishti, your yogi gaze to something that is not moving.

There’s no television in the part of the house that Nick and I usually stay. So, I spend most of the morning lounging around, playing with my phone or reading a book. I’ll lay in my pajamas until 11 or 12. Then I’ll take a ridiculously long shower. This is what I call stalling until lunch. The kayak shop is literally sandwiched between a convenience store and nail salon. I know that if I get desperate, I can walk next door and buy some hot Cheetos. Oh, the glory of living in a commercial area. As one of our visiting friends once remarked after making his third visit to the store, remarked, “It’s just so…convenient.” Indeed.

But here’s the thing. There really isn’t much to do here. There aren’t shopping malls or even a Starbucks within 15 miles. Just nature. On the road that leads to the highway, there’s a small drive-thru coffee shop. The orange hut that houses the coffeeshop is about the size of a storage shed and aptly named “The Addiction.” They know their demographic. Folks who want to slow down and relax but then the caffeine addiction calls. They answer that call in the form of flavored iced coffees and smoothies. Surrounded by so little, The Addiction feels like a precious miracle from heaven in a way that a strip mall Starbucks never could.

You have the basics, in Aransas Pass. There’s an HEB (praise the Lord!) and caffeine. You have everything you need. No more. No less. And there is something overwhelmingly calming about that.

At night, you can sit on a patio chair and relax or you can sit on the other patio chair and relax. Aransas Pass doesn’t make you choose between chaos or calm. Calm is what you get. The demands of your life are dimmed here. You don’t bring paperwork to Aransas Pass. You don’t bring ideas or plans. Just like you don’t bring a cell phone to the yoga mat.

When you get home to San Antonio, it’s even better that you remember it.

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all the puffy tacos in the world couldn’t cure this feeling

all the puffy tacos in the world couldn’t cure this feeling

I’m going to be honest. Since March, I’ve been battling the homesickness like crazy. It’s not that I hate Texas. I really love it. But it’s just harder here. In fact, writing for this blog has been harder because I know I’m “supposed” to be writing about all the “Texas” things but I’ve felt uninspired.

I know it all sounds babyish. But everything here is really is harder than it was in Georgia.

Excuse me while I whine for a minute or Why Texas Sucks

In Georgia, my commute to work was five minutes. And I was almost never faced with my own morality on the way to work. Here in San Antonio, my commute is almost an hour. And I almost always almost die en route. These roads are treacherous, people! And not just the people in the cars on the roads. I mean the actual roads. “Everything is bigger in Texas” and so are the potholes. I have this reoccurring anxiety. What if I blow a tire in the middle of the highway because of a pothole? What will happen? I figure I will most certainly die. I mean, obviously, we are all going to die one day, unless we find some magic water like in Tuck Everlasting…Dying will happen. But I don’t like thinking about it all the time. And I don’t want to die via Texas pothole.

My yoga studio here doesn’t have a shower which makes pre-work yoga classes a no-go. I realize this isn’t a life or death situation. And oh yes, this is definitely a first-world problem. But how else am I supposed to work off all those tortillas?

Making friends here is freaking hard, too. I mean, it doesn’t help that I’m 27 and most people in my profession are in their mid to late 30s or older. What about the military wives, you ask? I’m generally 3 or more years older than most military wives I know. Most of them have/want kids. I have an MFA and a semi-healthy herb garden that would be dead if my husband didn’t remind me to water it. It’s all I can handle for the foreseeable future and I can barely handle it. For these reasons, I feel like an outsider. But that’s just how I feel about my life in general. So maybe that’s just a Christen problem and not a Texas/Georgia issue?

Culture shock is real. In Savannah, there was one Mexican bakery. I explained this to my Mexican-American students and their eyes widened in mix of shock and disgust. There’s probably a dozen Mexican bakeries on Zarzamora street alone. I’m not saying my Savannah upbringing makes me completely clueless. I grew up in a family that always appreciated international cuisine. And Nick’s Mexican heritage certainly helps; I know the difference between carne asada and carne guisada. But I’ve never had a paleta and my students schooled me on chamoy and mangonada last week.

But the Pollyanna inside me keeps telling me I should be optimistic despite all these things. So here you go:

Five Reasons Why I Like San Antonio

1. San Antonio has way more quality local coffee shops and bakeries than Savannah. If you know me, bakeries and coffee shops are my jam. Here, I have access to Local Coffee, Bakery Lorraine, The Breadbox, and Bird Bakery.

2. San Antonio has more than one Barnes and Noble. And a Half-Price Books where you can sell and buy used books. Yes, please!

3. My yoga studio in San Antonio is very much community-centered. They ask you to introduce yourselves and often hold socials. I could possibly make a friend there one day.

4. San Antonio has two Trader Joe’s stores. I will be depressed if ever have to leave Texas for a state that does not have a Trader Joe’s. Plus, whenever I feel friendless, I can always go talk to a TJ cashier. They care about me. I can tell by the way they always ask what I’ve got going on. One of the cashiers actually sang to me the other day. If it’s possible to be BFFs with grocery store, then I pick Trader Joe’s.

5. Less than a month after moving here, I somehow managed to land my dream job at a university people have actually heard of.

6. Texas has Tex Mex cuisine. And Lord, does San Antonio have it in ample supply. In fact, I recently witnessed the miracle that is Oscar’s Taco House’s puffy tacos. Puffy tacos are exclusive to this part of the country and it’s a damn shame. Not to be confused with a crispy taco, these Tex-Mex delights are a cross between a crispy taco, a Taco Bell gordita tortilla, and corn tortilla. A little bit crunchy, a little bit fluffy, and a little bit chewy. They will change your taco Tuesday game forever. Plus, you can get a plate of them for like $5.

So you see, I have endless coffee shop options, a friendly, shower-less yoga studio, grocery store friends, a great job, and puffy tacos. I shouldn’t be homesick at all. But it’s not that simple. Sometimes you just miss home.

I’ve planned a Mother’s Day trip back to Georgia next week. And I’m not sure if that will hurt or help. With homesickness are you supposed to just quit home cold turkey like you do with cigarettes or a break-up? What if I want to break up with Georgia but I want to still be friends? How does that work? Will seeing Georgia again bring back the old feelings? Will it cause some out-of-control peach cobbler binge? Will I feel the intense need to drunkenly karaoke John Mayer’s “Why Georgia”? Or will returning to Georgia make me realize that leaving Georgia was for the best? Here’s hoping for the latter.

3 Ways to Feel at Home in a New City

3 Ways to Feel at Home in a New City

 

I read somewhere that you can literally die of homesickness. Isn’t that crazy? Well, I’ve been here for two months and I can say with confidence that I haven’t died yet. You know why? Because I’ve found a few simple, active ways to cope with being in an unfamiliar place. Of course this extends beyond the obvious, “get a job” and “make new friends.” Spoiler alert: making friends is much harder as a grown-ass adult. No, I’m talking about stuff you have control over and you can do right now. 

Three Ways to Feel at Home in New Place 

1. Find a coffee shop 

I never liked working at home. I spent a lot of time writing in cafes. I just think better outside my own home. So it was important to find one as soon as I got to San Antonio. When I’m looking for a new coffee shop, it must meet the following requirements:

It must be five miles away or less and easy to get to (no crazy highway shenanigans)

It must be inviting

This means I feel comfortable spending time there. I can’t feel like the employees are judging me for going to this cafe three days in a row. 

 They must have free tea refills

 I’m a tea-addict and I chain-drink tea when I’m concentrating. I’d be broke if I had to pay for each glass

It must be the kind of place where people spend time on their computers

 I can’t be only one “loitering” (as Nick calls it) on my computer for hours on end.  So not like a Whataburger. Sorry, I’m not that rogue!

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Bird Bakery (totally a favorite, but not close enough to home to make the cut)

Have I found this place yet? Well, I’m working on it. I have three contenders and I’ve been rotating which one I go to each week.  While I haven’t singled out one, at least now I have three places where I feel comfortable going to write.

2. Find a default favorite restaurant 

A default restaurant is essential. A place where I can slip into a booth and don’t even have to pick up a menu because I already know what I want. Life is crazy sometimes and I don’t want to think. I just want to sit and eat. In Savannah, that place was Wang’s II, a Chinese restaurant I’ve been going to since I was 12 years old. It was my dining room away from home. In San Antonio, that place is Whiskey Cake. It’s a farm to table place with a 1930’s industrial flair. I love it because it reminds me of Savannah. Locally sourced food is very big and Savannah, so I go to Whiskey Cake when I miss Savannah food. They have the yummiest salads. One has a fried poached egg on it. Need I say more?  And the whiskey cake is hands-down the BEST restaurant dessert that I’ve ever eaten.  It’s hard to feel homesick when you’re stuffing your face with cake. 

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Warm Kale Salad at Whiskey Cake.

3. Find a yoga studio/fitness class/church  

My mom is a retired military wife. One of the first pieces of advice she gave me when I moved was “Find a church.” Church isn’t for everyone, but I understand what she meant. She meant: find a community of like-minded people. For me, that means finding a yoga studio. When I lived in Savannah, I practiced Yoga 3-4 times a week. It was my stress release. It was something to ground me during my stressful workload. It was a safe space. 

In San Antonio, there are so many yoga studios it’s downright daunting. I’ve narrowed it down to two in my general neighborhood and I’ve tried one so far. While I’m not positive Half-Moon Power Yoga is going to be MY go-to yoga studio (only because they don’t have a shower and I’m totally spoiled from Savannah Power Yoga), it was welcoming and I got to talk about yoga with other yogis again. I still plan to try Southtown Yoga Loft and I’ll then I’ll be back to Half-Moon.

But here’s something I’ve had to come to terms with in the past couple weeks: I’m not going to find a yoga studio that is just like the one I left behind. It’s just not going to happen. For example, I practiced Baptiste yoga exclusively in Savannah. In San Antonio, I’m finding that very few of the studios are exclusive like that. You know what that means? I’m having to try something different. It’s a little scary at first but it kind of feels amazing. I’ve been going to this lunchtime class and it’s a slower flow than the Baptiste I’m used to. And they call different poses than I’m used to. So it’s not Savannah Power Yoga, but it still made me feel relaxed and centered at the end. And that’s kind of why I love yoga. It didn’t matter who the teacher was or where I was. It just mattered that I was on my mat. That part still felt like home. 

Maybe yoga isn’t your thing. Maybe it’s CrossFit or maybe it’s Jesus. The point I’m trying to make here is: find a group of people that have the same interests as you. It doesn’t matter if you’re from different cities. Yoga is a universal language. So is Jesus. Find a commonality with people in your new city and you’ll feel more at home. I promise. 

Isn’t there an easier way? I don’t want to leave my house 

Another way to feel more at home in a new city is the “fake it till you make it” approach. In Texas that means you wear cowgirl boots everywhere you go. Casually name-drop popular Tex Mex restaurants in conversations with strangers. Boy, will you have them fooled! But of course the problem with that is that you’ll know you’re faking it. You’re the one who is still going to wake up in the morning and feel homesick. Even if you slept in a Texas t-shirt the night before. It just doesn’t work, trust me.  It’s much better to find real, sustainable ways to make yourself feel more at home. For me, that’s finding safe spaces. Places I can go that, while new, feel at least a tiny bit familiar.