Surviving In Texas.

Houston is a city in which networking pays.   It is very possible to see someone who has never had a job, gain access to a job in which he/she is trained to ensure that he/she has the professional skills necessary to be competitive.  You will see this occur repeatedly.

When I moved to Houston and started my program, I was coming in with more than a decade worth of experience working in the healthcare sector.  I came in with soft skills  that were and are easily transferable into different sectors in the healthcare continuum but it was as if my years working in New York was wiped off as if it  never existed. (At a point, I wondered if there was a conspiracy in place to bring me back to New York but then I had to tell myself to stop being paranoid).

This was troubling because I am someone who has always taken her work seriously and ensured that I put in my best,but, then I realized that in Houston,  it really isn’t about being intelligent, or the type of experience you have but who you know.   No, this is not about favor, for my religious folks.

How have I survived?

a) experience –  Most of the time I lived in New York, I was always dealing with multiple issues and this actually trained me to think worst case scenario and to work around that.

b) budget and expenses – you will have to pay close attention to your expenses and think of alternative ways to cut costs.  For example, rather than pay 33 dollars or so per month for the gym, look into what free services exists in your community, purchase cheaper gym tools and use them at home, join a meetup for sport activities etc.  Do the same for other needs.  Food – you might need to become a flexitarian, shop at the farmer’s market and explore foods from other regions that use less stuff. Housing – shop, shop and the list goes on.

c) staffing firms – I worked with several staffing firms in Houston, working several crappy jobs.    But, with staffing firms you have to be careful, some of these workplaces are very tricky.  They won’t tell the staffing firm, the position they want to have you working in, neither will they notify the staffing firms of what they want you to do. Do not stay in those places too long.  I learned that the hard way.

d)others have survived by using other skills they have – cooking, baking, making repairs, tutoring, selling items, babysitting etc.

But, to really survive in Houston, you need to learn how to network in person. This might get you that job with absolutely no qualifications whatsoever.  Being an introvert, this is a skill that I am still learning.

 

 

Traveling

 

When I moved to Texas, my intention was to explore different parts of this very large land mass but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.  I have not visited El Paseo nor San Antonio, but, I am quite curious about El Paseo.

However, I’ve visited other ‘main’ places in Texas.  Of all the places that I visited in Texas, my favorite was Corpus Christi.   There’s just something about beach towns that get to me.  I just fell in love with everything.  Everyone was so friendly, I got to hang around the beach, visit some historical places etc.  To be quite honest,  if I receive an offer to move to  the Corpus Christi area, I will be gone before anyone says, ‘Jiminy Cricket’.  I am such a water child.

Have you ever visited Corpus Christi?  What did you think of the area?  What fun things can one do at El Paseo?

An Interview With Myself

Wow!  It has been a minute since I blogged here.   I had to stop writing to focus on school.  Well, the good news is that I graduated in Dec. 2015.  So, I met my goal of not allowing anything make me drop out of school.    I was tempted several times to quit but, as they say, a weakness (a.k.a stubbornness) can be a strength.

So, was it worth it?

I will like to believe that it was.  I had an interest which I had been pursuing on my own for years and now, I have the degree to back it up.  I took the risk, and even though I will be paying for that risk for some years to come, I do not regret it. That risk brought me to Texas.

 

Was your school a good school?

Yes.  It is a good school.  I am very grateful for the scholarship that I received which enabled me accomplish my goal.

Beyond the Educational bits, what else did I learn from grad. school?

So many things, namely:

a) Grad. schools are different.  This was my second sojourn into the world of graduate schools and my first experience was actually nice even though I worked full-time and received some financial support from my organization but there was a greater symbiotic relationship between profs. and students.   My second experience was not as ‘symbiotic’.

b)  Grad schools are influenced by their environments: In New York, where I completed my first graduate program,  there was a level of freedom that I had to ask questions.   In Texas, before you ask your question, you need to wrap it up in pretty paper, place a bow on it, lower your voice, pretend to be meek and then ask.  I did not feel as free in school.  Of course, I had some profs. that were exceptional who wanted us to ask questions and be engaged in class.  These profs. focused on their subject matter.  A couple come to mind.

c) To survive the educational system in Texas (my experience at one school), you need to be psychologically prepared and resilient. There will be times, that you will feel that [the system/some profs.] might be going  out of their way to break you (psychologically, physically and emotionally).  Just be prepared.

d)Favoritism might be the order of the day.  I will just leave this here.

e) There will always be a silver lining.  I had some great profs. who came to class and focused on the subject matter.  No attacks; no, I want to see if I can overwhelm you; just pure subject matter interspersed with stories of their lives.  I will always be grateful  to them because  they helped me maintain my sanity.

 

How did I survive?

a) Stubbornness and persistence.  There were several reasons that made me choose to leave the East Coast.  One was to have a fresh start and the second was to acquire an education in an area of interest.  I was sticking to that goal.  I refused to be a statistic.

b) Avoidance:  I ignored a lot of things and when I knew that I couldn’t ignore any more, I avoided.  There were some classes that I spent more time studying on my own than in the classroom because I felt that the classroom situation was just too distracting.

c) Learn on your own.  There are many tools/tutors online that can get you through a class, particularly a distracting class.

 

What Next?

Well, I am still looking for a masters level opportunity that will provide an opportunity to utilize my educational backgrounds.  But, if I can’t find that for whatever reason, then on to the next.  I will not be returning to the East Coast.

 

Do I regret moving to Texas?

No, I do not.  Texas taught me or is still teaching me that I am tougher than I think.  Surprisingly, I like this very weird state.

Anymore  schooling in my future?

I come from a family (extended and nuclear) of highly educated professionals.  So, if I am not learning anything new via my workplace, then do not be surprised to find me back at school (either online, evenings or over the weekend).

 

PhD, maybe?

If I find an interesting subject matter that brings it all together, I just might.  My mother has one, so why not?  But,  it will not be this year.

 

Any advice?

Keep learning.   You are strong.  Go outside your comfort zone.  Always, have a way to relax.  Pray!

 

 

 

So Far

 houston 030I’ve been catching up on the social scene in my neck of the woods.   I am slowly stepping out.  When, I lived in New York, I had retreated from things I used to do for fun.  I used to go to the museum with my friends, go out to eat or stay at their house and eat their food, go out to events/concerts.  I still kept up with the concerts because I love Music, particularly African music but a lot of other things had fallen through the cracks because life got in the way. 

 In the past two weeks, I’ve been learning more about this city that I live in  and trying to see if there is anything here beyond school that will make me put down my second nail. (think analogy of building a house).  This search led me to the Menil and also to a Japanese festival.

The Japanese festival was a lot of fun.  Many lovers of Japanese culture displayed aspects of Japanese music, food, dance etc.  Of course, with Anime being rather huge in the United States,there were many native Texans dressed as Anime characters which was quite interesting to see, when one considers that many view Texans as being ultra conservative. Houstonians love to have a good time and they will create that good time in this urban jungle.  Yes, I used the phrase urban jungle.  If you are a lover of nature, be ready to be depressed for a couple of weeks before you snap out of it.  

This event took place at the Herman Memorial Park which I fell in love with instantly.  Oh my goodness! I think being in that park with the water falls and the bodies of water (man-made) but clean not murky or brown was like nirvana. A weight was lifted off my shoulders.  

But, I really enjoyed the Japanese festival.  It was a lot of fun seeing people embrace a culture that really isn’t theirs; it was great seeing people of Japanese origins being willing to share that part of who they are.  🙂

My second fun outing experience was to the Menil Museum.  I had heard so much about the Menil Museum from many Houstonians that I just had to go check it out. My first lesson when I got there was to realize that people actually do dress up to go to the museum. As an aside,’i wonder if people dress up to go to the zoo.  They had cocktails and served food- (goat meat, another meat, and more meat with some korean dumpling).  The food tasted really good but I had to  separate the dumplings from the goat meat and just had the dumplings and the vegetables.  So delicious.

Since I am not an Arts aficionado, I lost that mojo many years ago, I was now looking at Art just as a lay person and enjoying it without the extra knowledge.   I really enjoyed viewing the selection of pieces from Greece, different parts of Africa, India etc.  It was like stepping back in time to my world history class in high school. Many of the objects looked familiar.  That part was fun.  

The main attraction was the ‘mystery of the ordinary’ which was made up of art works from private collections. My favorite pieces were the ‘acrobat’s ideas’, le double secret (the double secret), la clairvoyance,  la magic noire.

The acrobats ideas just spoke to me of the multiple juggling of realities that many women have to go through often on a daily basis.

 Ie double secret – spoke to me of the dual personalities that many women often have.  We show different faces dependent on who we are speaking with and what the environment is like. You can be an extrovert in one setting and be a complete introvert in another.

La clairvoyance spoke to me of seeing further.  Some might  see just an egg which could be cracked open and fried but someone who is visionary, sees the potential within that egg.  This person sees the future; this person sees a big bird that can fly to the sky.  Some can view the painter in this picture as a holy being, i.e God  but others who aren’t spiritual might view the painter as a guide,a parent,  a  person who wants the best for that little egg.  

La magic noire was simply a woman standing by the sea but the question really is this, is she human or isn’t she?  

I believe good art makes one think and question.  Those spoke to me but there were many pieces that I really did not understand.  I hope to go back before June 1st.  Did I forget to add this?  You do not have to pay a fee to visit the museum.  It is completely free.  You know how I love my free stuff!  🙂  It is open till June 1st. 

That’s it for now…. I hope to take my books and head out to a park in my neck of the woods,  this weekend.  Maybe, I will find another place that might make me put down my third nail.  

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s talk microbeads

We all have our little secrets. You know those things that you really enjoy doing when no one is looking or those things that if the world knew that you did or enjoyed, you might get a raised eyebrow. I admit that I am a natural body care/simple lifestyle advocate but yes, I do enjoy the zen feeling from an exfoliating facial scrub several times a week. There is just something about the smell, the scrub scrub feel and the circular motions of my hands on my face. Actually, those pleasures were quite guilt free since I believed that by using a product that was citrus and soy based, I was being very environmentally friendly. So, imagine my shock when a student gave a presentation in one of my classes in which she discussed the dangers of microbeads and how California (not surprisingly) and New York (surprisingly) are on the forefront of forcing cosmetic industries via policies and legislation to come up with an alternative scrubber for their body and facial products.

What are microbeads and why the furor, you wonder? Microbeads are generally micro particle polyethylene beads which are about 1mm or less in diameter that are designed to simply wash down our sewer system. The problem really is that the washed dirty products still with our beads eventually leads to our waterways and these beads are eaten by fish and other marine animals which creates a problem with their DNA structure; these marine animals are eaten by humans or birds and this eventually gets into our system. There is a belief that the continuous use of microbeads product beyond being an environmental hazard might lead to endocrine , birth defect and cancer in humans.
Many cosmetic companies are in the works to phase out microbeads in the next couple of years but that does not mean that we do nothing as we wait for them to do what they need to do. There are alternatives that have been used by other societies for ages that do not harm us or the environment and they are:
a) Salt. Sea salt or regular salt mixed with coconut or olive oil will definitely give the scrub that you want.
b) Sugar : mixing brown or even regular sugar with coconut or olive oil will work as a scrub.
c)Coffee: Since I am anti coffee but I love the smell, using coffee as an alternative for skin care is a way of having a dual product at home which can be served to guests and used as a scrub.. I am a fan of products that have multiple uses. You can use coffee grounds or ground coffee.
d)Baking soda: for 99 cents per pop, you have an exfoliate that can last months. Unfortunately, I have read mixed reviews on this product, some cite the high alkalinity of the product as being one that will eventually wear down the skin barrier and lead to dry skin or skin eruptions. But, then there are others even dermatologists that swear by this product. As you know, baking soda is simply sodium bicarbonate.
e) Clay: I could go on and on about clay but this has been used for centuries in different societies. There are different types of clay out there, so just read up and use the one that is best for you.
f) St.Ives. – You know them. Well, they stayed away from the plastic pull of the world of microbeads and they have some great products.
g) Oatmeal, crushed walnut shells, crushed rice particles : These are also alternatives to microbeads.

http://ecowatch.com/2013/10/28/study-shows-plastic-microbeads-facial-scrubs-pollute-great-lakes/
http://articles.latimes.com/2014/feb/13/business/la-fi-california-microbead-ban-20140213
http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/new-york-ban-beauty-products-microbeads-article-1.1611463
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/11/nyregion/ban-sought-on-microbeads-in-beauty-items.html?_r=0
http://ecowatch.com/2014/02/17/new-york-california-legislation-ban-microbeads-cosmetics/

OPUSC

I was in Houston, Texas for a couple of days and I fell deeply in love with this highly organized cosmopolitan city. Why did I go in earlier than planned? Well, on campus housing was booked to the tee and it was best to get the housing aspect of admission taken care of.  I spoke to a lady in Houston  who was looking for a roommate and the plan was that I will spend the weekend in Houston, meet her and sign the contract necessary to be apartment mates.  But, unfortunately, that plan fell through the cracks and my plans were turned upside down.  Despite, the little upheaval to my plans, I did get to explore Houston a little bit, I got to go to my school on Sunday and gained a deeper appreciation for google maps.  My school is absolutely beautiful by the way.

The good news is that I did achieve my aim of getting a place to stay that met my criteria.  It is amazing how it all worked out.    There were many times that I felt frustrated and I thought I will return back to my temporary abode without achieving anything but when you keep calm and appraise your situation rationally, things generally fall in place.

What are my thoughts on Houston?  I love it and I am definitely looking forward to spending some years in this city even though, I have this weird feeling that my roots might eventually be in a different Texan town but this is okay for now.  Houston is actually very funny.  In New York, the disparity between the rich and the poor were pretty obvious in terms of the cities and towns that they choose to live in but in Houston that really isn’t the case.  The rich and the poor seem to live side by side amicably. But, I found a little undercurrent of racial tension in Houston.  Now, before typing my experiences, do realize that these are first impressions, so they might not be how things really are.  Secondly, I might be looking at everything from New York eyes, so my view might be a little flawed.

I stayed in a little place where international travelers et al, generally stay and I came in very exhausted and had to find somewhere to eat.  I have to admit that I did not look at my room number when I was taken up, my mind was only on food and eventual rest.  After eating my little heart out and returning back to the place that I had to stay, I realized that I did not know my room number, it wasn’t written on any document, so I walked up to the lady in charge at the receptionist desk to ask her what my room number is.  She looked at me, opened up her fingers  and said room five.  I was taken aback.  You know how people use their hands to communicate with those who they feel can’t understand English, that’s what she did and I wanted to slap her silly with those fingers of hers but I just shook my head and told myself that maybe I misunderstood what she was doing.  She was Caucasian.

The second place of racial undercurrent was when I went in to eat. I chose to eat at a Chinese restaurant because I could not find a Mexican restaurant that could promise me the kind of spicy food I needed.  Once, I stepped into the restaurant, the server scowled at me but still led me to my chair.  She gave me the menu and I made my order.  When she came to give me the food i ordered, she kind of slammed the food on my table. I was like, huh, but thought maybe I could be over reacting.  But, then , I listened to her talking to a caucasian man who she was asking how his food was and she was very pleasant and showed a different side from what she showed me.  I was very turned off by her behavior.  I tipped her, but only because I wanted her to see that black people do not go into restaurants with trouble making written on their foreheads.  The waiter was Asian.

The third place was when I was looking for a place to live for the new semester.  The guy who was managing/supervising the place was Hispanic.  The first comment that rang some bells was when I came in , he seemed taken aback by my appearance and then the next statement he said was,”I have no problems with race, I believe we are all one” He said all these without any conversation about race. Once, I heard that, I knew I had to be on my guard.  Then, he mentioned, that he only had two black tenants living in the apartment  complex and he sent the other black tenants out.  He went ahead to mention that he had refused to rent his apartment to some black people because he had a bad feeling about them even though they were qualified and had the money necessary to rent the apartment.  Then he went ahead to insinuate about my legal status in this country.  You know at that point,  I was mentally counting up to ten.  Then he goes ahead to say that the reason that a certain country in Africa was better and more organized is because white people are still in power, of course, I had to correct his history because he obviously had his facts wrong about that country.   Then, he refused to give me documents to fill my tax information and then gave me a form to fill out all my information which he wanted to fully investigate.  I shook my head.  This man obviously had issues with race, okay, black people to call a horse, a bloody horse.  But, I was polite to him because, seriously, my mind was focused on one objective which was to get a place to live next semester.

But beyond, these three instances showing the undercurrent of racial tensions in Houston, everything was okay.  I noticed that the homeless cut across racial lines.   That was meh!

What did I learn from this trip?

a) Do not take any road trips that is more than 6 hours long.   All you get from it is a cramped back, lack of sleep, and a jacked up system.

b) Houston has some delectable eating places.

c) Houston is a very organized city.

d) Houston is cosmopolitan.

e) Houston has some very friendly people and some very hot men!!  *ahem*

f) Google maps is the business.

g) Keep an open mind, open log, relax and enjoy the flow!

🙂

Me.