Albuquerque: 10 Things I’ve Learned So Far

Hi everyone! The last month has been a wild ride of graduating from college, driving home from Chicago to San Diego, spending a week in Yosemite, a week redoing an entire room in my parent’s house, a week spent at Disney World (more on that in my next post), and then moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico to live with my brother and sister-in-law. I still forget what time zone I’m in, but after three weeks I’m starting to feel a little more settled.

Welcome to New Mexico

Albuquerque, and New Mexico in general, is full of quirks. At least that’s the best way I’ve found to describe it so far. Here are a couple of the things I’ve learned about this mysterious place in the last few weeks:

  1. The official state nickname is “The Land of Enchantment” but it is more often known as the land of “would you like green or red chile on that?” You can also choose both, which they call “Christmas” style. Seriously, they put chiles on everything here.
  2. On that note, there is a difference between the Mexican food you get in Southern California and “New Mexican” food. Mostly it means you are safe ordering enchiladas, but a taco will look like it came from Taco Bell. They make up for it with sopapillas and honey at the end of every meal though.
  3. Hot air ballooning is not just a fun tourist outing, in Albuquerque it has long been a serious business. The International Hot Air Balloon Museum boasts treasures such as the gondola used to make the first flight across the Atlantic Ocean, a Japanese bomb that actually used unmanned hot air balloons during WWII to float incendiary bombs across the Pacific (which were surprisingly successful but the government kept it a secret to prevent panic about mainland attacks), and one of the first parachutes was invented by, what’s that?– a woman! Apparently this woman had more guts than most men of her day and invented the parachute to use for stunt jumps out of hot air balloons. You go girl.
  4. The police will fight back. I was enjoying a pleasant ride up the Sandia Tramway (the longest tramway in the world by the way) when I overheard a man talking about how the police killed an old homeless man they found camping out in the mountains because he was apparently “dangerous.” Sad story, but true. The upside is that I just moved here from Chicago, so the crime and police activity here still seems mild. That’s right I’m tough, or at least I pretend to be.
  5. Instead of air conditioning, many places use something called a “swamp cooler.” It can only be used in places with less than 30% humidity because of the magical way it uses water to cool the air (don’t ask me how, my engineer brother explained it and that is all I got out of it). One way or another, you have to flip three light switches to turn it on and it makes me feel like some kind of pilot flipping switches and making the world a better, cooler place.
  6. They are vigilant about checking your i.d. if you want a drink – so vigilant that my vertical California license might not pass in most places, at least according to the nice bartender who almost wouldn’t sell me a beer. According to Mr. Bartender, Albuquerque has such a significant problem with alcoholism that he even has to ask 80-yr old grandmas for their i.d. before selling them alcohol.
  7. Roadrunners are not mythical creatures that can survive coyote pursuits or anvil attacks, they are real life birds and yes, they run across the road.
  8. The Acoma Indians, located west of Albuquerque, are matriarchal and pass the family name through the mother’s line. We took a tour of their pueblo, and although it was sadly touristy the guide was authentic in his portrayal of the tribe’s daily life. They also make really good fry bread, which is different from Alaskan fry bread (at least that I’ve tried). Still delicious though.

    The cultural center at the Acoma Pueblo had dancers performing traditional tribal dances.
    The cultural center at the Acoma Pueblo had dancers performing traditional tribal dances.
  9. Albuquerque is also a great place for biking, with extensive trails along the canal and bike lanes across the city. However, there are these awful prickers called “goat’s heads” that seem perfectly designed to poke holes in bicycle tires, almost guaranteeing a flat tire on or after any bike ride in the area. The other anomaly to the great biking town reputation is when you see a white bicycle statue (aka “Ghost Bikes”) on the side of the road, which indicates a place where a cyclist was killed.
  10. New Mexico likes to be unique with what the rest of the country considers standard acronyms. For example, instead of getting a DUI for driving under the influence, New Mexico law designates such acts as DWI, or driving while intoxicated. Also, you would never have to deal with a long line at a DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), instead you can wait in a long line at the New Mexico MVD (Motor Vehicle Division). Why these changes? Well why not?! “Why not” should also be part of New Mexico’s state motto, it does fit well with the current motto: Crescit Eundo (“It Grows as it Goes”). Supposedly this motto is supposed to represent prosperity and progress, but its nonsensical wording does make you feel like you are falling down the rabbit hole, and the city of Albuquerque has plenty of characters to support that feeling.

Along with all of these I’m also learning a lot about the challenges of post-grad life and how to structure my life outside of a school calendar. It is mostly weird, sometimes panicky and stressful, but also calming when I realize I can still breathe, in and out, in and out. So I will continue to float with the flow, enjoying days of rest in this weird, weird land.

What have your experiences been in moving to a new place?

What are some of the weird things you’ve learned about where you live?

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