Before I started my blog and before I came to Costa Rica, I read the study abroad blog of a friend of a friend, howibecametexan.com. At the time, I didn’t really understand the words I typed into the URL bar (I was not yet advanced enough to understand the concept of “following”), but now that I have left my home state, I’m starting to get it.
I grew up in a rural area outside of San Antonio, Texas, USA. Throughout my childhood, and especially as a teenager, I was a country hipster, pushing away the stereotypes that people around me lived out. I rolled my eyes at the sound of country music. I picked my way around the meat on the barbecue plates served at town functions and threw it away when my dad wasn’t looking. I never bothered to get a pair of cowboy boots. I felt trapped by only knowing the same ten people I went to kindergarten with and shuddered at the thought of being one of those who never left the no-stoplight town.
When I applied for college, I jumped at the chance to go to school at a big liberal university six hours away from home where I knew absolutely no one. I was eager to shed the identity I had had my entire life and get to know different people. I took to my anthropology class with gusto and reveled in the fact that they never played country in the cafeterias.
Over the next two years, Texas started growing on me so slowly, I didn’t notice.
By the end of my freshman year, I felt the gap in my life of a good river swimming hole with a swing and trees I could climb without people judging me. I also couldn’t skip class to go hay hauling with my family. I missed driving the slow tractor that was so loud, my dad and uncles had to communicate with hand signals when they wanted me to stop. I missed sitting with my cousins on top of a trailer piled high with hay bales as the straw prickled me even through my jeans.
By my sophomore year, scenes from my home were slipping into my writing and I finally bought a pair of boots and went two-step dancing at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth. I may or may not have initially thought of buying the boots so I could take some culture with me to Costa Rica. Country songs brought nostalgia rather than annoyance and I put George Strait on my iPod.
But it was only when I came to Costa Rica that I understood my Texan identity. If you talked to any of the other exchange students (none of which are from Texas) they probably wouldn’t believe you if you said I used to shy away from the idea of Texas pride. Since I’ve been here, I’ve written an essay each about the Alamo and the hill country, I’ve recounted the Texas Revolution a couple of times, I’ve gotten excited over Texas flag sightings, I’ve worked the fact that Texas was an independent country into conversations, I’ve suggested we visit a Texas bar that’s somewhere around here, I’ve explained “ya’ll” and “fixin’ to” to ticos, I’ve told all that is awesome about San Antonio, the hill country, and Big Bend, and I always tell people I’m from Texas rather than the United States when they ask.
Guys. The people here don’t know what pecan pie is.
I always thought I would settle in another country, or at least another state, but now I think that once the wanderlust leaves me, I’ll probably settle in San Antonio, where I can find good chips and queso and go to the rodeo; where I can see my cousins and aunts and uncles on holidays and go to Mass in the church where I was baptized if I want to.
It’s not that I think that Texas is a better place than others, it’s just that there’s a part of me that will never be at home anywhere else. I love the traveling I’m doing and the life I’m learning, but it’s nice to know where home is.