Monday, June 25, 2012

Coming to Houston

This is another post from my US reporting tour, I decided to publish my Texas posts first before my Washington DC posts.

We arrived in Houston after a not-so-long drive from Austin. About an hour and a half after leaving Austin, we entered the town of Brenham. 

It is a small town, by small I mean tiny. The kind of town where houses are colorful and lawns are mowed.

We left the bus fast as we had 30 minutes to find a place to eat and come back to the bus.  As we walked around, it seemed that we invaded the town. Everytime I looked around, it was us, the 34 foreigners in this little town in Texas. 

We walked into a restaurant and overwhelmed them with our orders. The waiter was running around and told us that they were focusing on getting our orders. After that, he told that it will take sometime to pack our orders to go!

 I actually got up and walked to the kitchen offering to help pack our lunches as we had little time.

I found another guy and the chef working hard to pack our orders. I don't think they've ever received as many guests.

We left the restaurants, I went with another girl to a little deli to buy ice-cream. I felt so overwhelmed by the ice-cream flavors , I ended up getting a pie. I also didn't go for anything fancy like pecan pie or key-lime pie , I went for a classic apple pie and it was the best choice I made.

We arrived in Houston, a large city with many sky-scrappers at about 5 pm. I went up to my room, rested and came down at 6:30.

About ten of us left the hotel, walking aimlessly hoping to find an open shop or restaurant. 

I looked around and told the group that I felt like we are in a movie. It was the weird post-apocalyptic American films where a modern city is hit by something (flying spiders/ some weird endemic) and we are the only survivors walking around to find other survivors.

Yes, it was a quite city and we were trying to find people. 

Today, as we were sitting in a meeting room with a young network. We were told that the heat is driving people indoors. 

"They are sitting in air-conditioned buildings or the tunnels." she said.

I only explored the tunnels on my last day in Houston. I was sitting in my lobby checking my email when a bunch of friends from the tour asked me to hurry and come with them.

I packed up my belongings in a hurry and ran upstairs. From the second floor of the hotel, we walked from tunnel to tunnel. It was our last day together and we were sad, but the 45 minutes we spent in the tunnels trying to get to a high-rise building and then back to the hotel were just wonderful.

I was with Rabab, the opinionated Egyptian girl who always takes care of me. T.C, the quiet Liberian  who can really walk in stilettos. Andrew, the first Jamaican I've ever met and also one of the funniest guys I've ever met. There was also Somaya from Oman, I've grown accustomed to her loud, expressive and fast way of talking and her kindness. Kwabena, the gentleman from Ghana who was a favorite to all the ladies because of his sweetness. And Farrah , the short Jordanian girl who braided my hair on Monday and makes-up really funny words. 

We walked really fast from tunnel to tunnel, all the way making fun of African stereotypes. Kwabena kept telling Andrew to forget about the stereotypes the minute he sets foot in Jamaica. They tease each other all the time, but they grew really close really fast.

When we first reached Houston, we kept wondering why it is so empty. We walked around like we are the 10 survivors looking for other people. Now , I know why…people are literally undergrounds.

The tunnels have a life of their own..newsstands, little cute cafes and other services. 

Finally, we took an elevator at a high-rise building. There was only one option to choose, 58. Once you hit that button, there is no way out. After a short-elevator ride, we were all there on the 58th floor of a building (don't remember the name). The view was spectacular. We saw Houston clearly and invented a new job called "the parking spotter". Because up there, we were able to see empty parking spots and parking everywhere is a problem.

On the way back to the tunnel leading to our hotel, we got lost. As much as we were all stressed out about being late as we all had flights to catch and some had to finish up some packing…I was happy that we had more time to spend together…

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