Wednesday, August 13, 2008

From Nauseated to Neighborly in Park City, Utah

By Guest Blogger Jessica McCleary

Note: This is the second installment in a series of posts by OTPYG Guest Blogger Jessica McCleary. Read her first post and third post as well. She'll be sharing her firsthand experiences with moving to small town America in April 2008. How is the relationship faring? Stay tuned!

My first week in Utah, I felt like I had a hangover. Which would be impossible, of course, since all I was drinking was the 3.2% alcohol beer you can buy at the grocery store. (It tastes like beer, and has all the calories of beer, but none of the day-after side effects.)

What I was actually experiencing was altitude sickness, which, as it turns out, is a very real thing. On top of this physical discomfort, I was living in temporary housing until I could find a place in Park City. Most of my time was spend trying to find a state-run liquor store where I could buy wine and missing Walnut Creek and warm weather.

But then things started to pick up. One of the first things I’d heard about Utah is that people are “abnormally nice.” Well, it’s true. People have a genuine friendliness that I didn’t experience in Walnut Creek, where I was used to working with rude, unappreciative, snobby and standoffish people. In contrast, people here ARE abnormally nice and thoughtful, which has made the adjustment so much easier.

Case in point: when moving into my new condo (200 square feet bigger than my old place, plus W/D and garage, for about the same rent), my landlord introduced me to all the neighbors my first day. A woman I work with put me in contact with one her friends, who lives right around the corner from me. An old high school friend asked me to dinner. A family friend invited me to join a tennis league.

Suddenly, after only a few short weeks, I had a busy social schedule and was getting involved with new groups that I had met through neighbors and, a site that connects you with local groups that share your interests.

My neighbors Jimmy and Jessica (yes, slightly confusing!) are starting a relationship with Park City too, so the three of us explore together. We’ve gone hiking – at one point walking through several feet of snow – to see some mountain lakes at sunset. We’ve gone to hear free concerts at Deer Valley. We’ve mountain biked on all the trails around town. The photo above is from a hike we took in the Uinta Mountains, part of the Wasatch National Forest (1.6 million acres).

It is easy to love a place that welcomes you with open arms. Sometimes the big city gives you the cold shoulder, and it can be difficult to find your place. Maybe Salt Lake City (population 1 million) would be just as friendly, but I doubt it. I’m glad I chose Park City. I haven’t formed any lifelong friendships yet, but I am developing a close bond with a town that has demanded nothing…yet given me the freedom to explore and redefine myself. The best relationships are like that, so I have a feeling we could be together for a while!

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