Today marks my first year anniversary of my arrival in Amarillo, TX. Amarillo, also known as “Yellow City”. A 200’000 inhabitants city located straight in the Texas panhandle, what I called the Wild West. What Amarillo is known about? Its “Big Texan” 72oz steak, its helium, its historical connection to the Route 66 and also for the nearby Palo Duro canyon, the second largest canyon in the United States.
It is also a rural town, located in the Texas High Plains, located among one of the largest cattle ranches in Texas. Being in Amarillo brings you advantages and inconveniences. Amarillo is by definition far from everything: The I40-West will take you to Albuquerque, NM in 4 hours, the I40-East will take you to Oklahoma City, OK in 4 hours. Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is 5.5 hours away and Denver, CO is 6.5 hours drive away. Thats brings you not much options. But you are also fairly well located so you can access to big city in a 5 hours drive radius (that can be an interesting option if you want to attend a concert, you can aim OKC, DFW or DEN).
When I left Madison, Wisconsin for my new faculty position here, I left it with a feeling of bitterness and sadness. I left a place I got used to love despite its harsh winter (being snowed up from November to mid-April, with sub zeros temperatures in January). I left a piece of me there, I left three years of living in one of the greatest place to live (according to several surveys) and left it with a broken heart as well. It was with tears in my eyes I left Wisconsin.
Arriving here after 2 days of driving southwards (ironically I have drove the same roads that brought me from Aggieland to Madcity three years before), we were here in our townhouse. No furniture, no TV, no Internet, no chairs (the moving company came the day after however and was a huge relief to have back some comfort)!
Anyone that say moving is easy is a blatant liar. You are lost, you have to learn back finding strategic spots (where is the nearest Walmart? Where is the French Bakery? Where is the nearby Bestbuy? Where is the nearest Starbucks? Where is the nearest school?)
But Amarillo also show me a great thing about Texas: Its Southern hospitality. An hospitality found in my workplace, an hospitality found in the nearby grocery store, an hospitality in the community with the typical “Thank you sweetie, y’all have a good day”.
Amarillo gave me a helping hand when in my academic career it was dark and gloomy (I was on my fifth year of postdoc, my H1 visa was ending and no academic future back in Europe). It felt like a relief and since my first day in my faculty appointment, I decided to show to my employers that their trust in my profile was worthing it.
After one year, here I am. Completely integrated into the community, giving back to the community by participating in local fundraising events (in particular the Amarillo Heart Walk and the Autism Speaks March in Amarillo), having my research lab up and running, two graduate students under my patronage. My first commencement ceremony as a faculty (I wished that Europe would implant this Anglo-Saxon habit, it is a great way to celebrate the completion of a degree), my first teachings done with future healthcare practitioners. A full academic year in which the kiddos not only adopted their new school but also thrived as never before! It is funny to see my little son learning Spanish in his preschool class and coming home excited to tell me his new words.
The winter in Amarillo was something fairly new to me: one weekend you may have a foot of snow in your garden and unable to drive outside, the next weekend you would stand in your backyard in a tee-shirt and grill some patties under a warm winter!
If I have to complain about some things? Well the poor quality and choice of thrift stores in town (driving an 1.5 hours to Lubbock partially solve it) and the presence nearby of Hereford that reminds you that you are indeed in a rural area (they call it the smell of money…I let you decide the meaning of it). Also the strong winds and T-storms hitting the area. I still remember two weeks after my arrival experiencing my first Tornado Alert in the middle of the night, hearing the strong wind currents and the sirens. We hid in the bathroom waiting for the winds to calm down, that was some freaking experience.
I came in Amarillo full of nostalgia from Madcity and the Badger State and the Yellow City (as amarillo means yellow in Spanish) brought me some balming sunshine coupled with the Southern hospitality when I needed it.