I’m leaving again. My destination this time is Acre, Israel, where I will spend five weeks working as the zooarchaeologist on Penn State’s Tel Akko project.
I’ve learned that eight months is how long it takes me to acclimate to a new place. The first month is for locking down the basics. I figure out where the grocery store is. I get a job if I need one. I find the laundromat. I set up internet. I get a library card. I’m lonely, so I join a club. Or several clubs.
Months two and three are for figuring out logistics and making panicked adjustments. Where’s the doctor’s office? What about the optometrist’s? Can I walk there or should I figure out the bus schedule? I can’t afford half the groceries I’m buying: better figure out what’s actually in my budget.
Months four-through-seven are for fine-tuning. Maybe my job isn’t great. Maybe I’m not as close to some people as I thought I’d be. I find a new job, explore new friendships, try new coffee shops, look for better parks. There are always hiccups and false starts.
By month eight, things have fallen into place. I’ve settled into my job. I know the fastest route from my gym to my workplace. I know the most scenic route, too, for days when I have more time. I have a set of foods that I both enjoy and can afford. I have a favorite restaurant, a coffee shop with that precise, productive blend of ambient noise, a bar with a mean craft cocktail and a good crowd. I’ve made a real friend. If I’m lucky, I’ve made a few.
It takes me eight months to acclimate. That makes month nine the hardest time to leave.
I wasn’t destined to love Corvallis, but I didn’t know that when I decided to move here after Paris. I was excited to spend time with my best friend, and my head was full of visions of Portlandia – I arrived in Corvallis fully prepared to love my left coast, hipster hometown.
I didn’t. Corvallis lacks certain things I’ve discovered are important to my happiness: an art museum, for example. And an airport. Nothing about living in Corvallis has made me feel quite so isolated as being two hours from the nearest real airport. The smallest city is made global by an airport: the entire rest of the world is only as far away as the other side of the security line.
Still, it’s month nine, and I’ve put down enough roots to feel them getting torn up. I have a job I enjoy. I have friends. I have a French conversation group that I meet with when I can and a tenuous-but-growing connection to the university. I’ve started falling into the kind of spontaneous adventures that I love – just last week, a wine tasting with my friend Ana ended with the pair of us serving as social media models for Grochau Cellars.
Month nine is when I start seeing what life would look like if I stayed in a place, and despite being lived in the allergy capital of the US (who knew?), life in Corvallis would have its perks.
But archaeology is an itinerant profession, at least for many of us, and it’s the profession I love despite all the sacrifices it asks for. So I’m leaving again: already missing the friends I’ve made but looking forward to the broad horizon on the other side of security.