In many ways Texas was exactly what I needed. It was more than just a holiday, more than just a well-timed holiday. Here are some of the things which made it great for me.
Time away from work. This sounds obvious, and of course it is true in a basic semantic sense, but what I really was looking for at the time was a way to switch my mind off from the things I had been constantly considering, or stressing about, for the last few months. Details are unnecessary, but suffice to say that, through a series of coincidences, it turned out to be a very well-timed break. The problems have not disappeared upon my return, but just stepping back from them, and forgetting about them altogether for days at a time, was very refreshing. It also added much-needed perspective.
A chance to reconnect with old friends. This was the most important aspect of the trip. Firstly, there is the simple fun which comes from being with old mates, and reliving the old jokes which made those times so worthwhile, even when the jokes start to cross a line. Scott, Dave and I, through shared love of things nerdy, became close at University, and that will always be a great time in my life to think back on, representative of a burgeoning adulthood in many ways. It is a sign of great friends that when we meet again after so much time, it is like nothing has changed. It was also good to see Pam again and catch up with her about goings on in little old Aotearoa.
Secondly, through life, one will often have groups of friends who were important, and who, through memory, come to encapulate the (often rose-tinted) stages in ways which give rise to a certain nostalgia. This in itself is enlightening; but beyond this, it was great to be able to be there for a friend of mine as he embarked on the next stage of his life, and to be able to wish him well. Which brings me to my next point.
The Wedding. It was a lot of fun. For highlights, try the groom and groomsmen walking in to the Imperial March (cheers Lara), Dave's speech, which was hilarious, or my awesome freestyle rap battle with Scott. I can now say I am the winner of two rap battles, as well as a yo mama fight. And seriously, who doesn't like being at weddings? It's a lot of fun, a happy occasion, a chance to see your friends step up and make a commitment which will give them joy for the rest of their lives. I know marriage isn't all plain sailing, but just for one day it can be perfect.
New friends. One of the other good aspects of weddings is you often meet a whole new batch of people. The famed Southern hospitality did not leave us wanting. It was a lot of fun meeting Lara (the bride), and her family and friends. They were great to hang out with, and I even got to go shooting with Mike and the boys. Scott went so far as to say I was not as shit as he had expected, which almost sounds like a compliment to me.
Driving. Though I did have my share of stress and complaining, once the tricks of driving on the opposite side of the road were mastered, the experience was quite enjoyable. Even being able to successfully navigate ice-strewn roads was an achievement it is own way. For me, being able to drive around reminded me of the freedom which comes from having a car, something which I haven't really experience since I lived in New Zealand. And having conquered my nerves and succeeded in driving in the US, despite satnav errors and ice and six-lane highways, gives me a feeling of accomplishment I wasn't expecting.
Exploration. Another advantage of having what the Texans consider a 'mid-sized' car (six seater minivan), was the ability to get out and explore. Because of the snow and ice, I didn't make it to Louisiana, but I did get down to Austin and San Antonio, and I am glad I was able to do so. Not quite the Great American Road Trip I had in mind, but maybe next time for that. (Scott, let's do a road trip. By the time I have saved up to come back, you'll be able to drive there too.)
Food. If you are on my facebook, you will have seen (some of) the food pictures I took. I can't move to the US, because I would probably have a heart attack within a year. For some reason the decadence and ridiculous nature of the food appeals to me, as well as the genuinely gourmet meals you can find. I almost got shot for eating ribs with a knife and fork, and I had a chocolate peanut butter fudge ripple cheesecake which kicked my ass. Who leaves half a cheesecake? And pancakes. They have the best pancakes. Now I must wait for the ihop to become genuinely international, rather than just 'World Series' international, and bring an outlet to London.
Texas was not exactly what I expected, what with 27 degree weather one day followed by snow and ice the next. But the people were so polite, and it's nice to be called sir every now and again. All-in-all it was a great time, refreshing and exciting for me, and a place I would definitely go back to. And not just for the pancakes.