My neighbourhood

When we’re not travelling, our permanent base is a townhouse in North Plano, a suburb north of downtown Dallas. It is a nice, quiet place, with a commercial area within walking distance. Having shops, pubs and restaurants within walking distance is a boon in suburban Dallas, where you cannot survive without a car.

Come with me on a walk to The Shops at Legacy, where we shop, eat, drink and catch a movie.

Let's go
Let’s go
Communal mail bank
Communal mail bank
It's all apartments when we cross the road
It’s all apartments when we cross the road
Pretty square with cowboy and longhorns sculptures
Pretty square with cowboy and longhorns sculptures
Welcome to The Shops
Welcome to The Shops
Boutiques share space with restaurants and bars
Boutiques share space with restaurants and bars
The Angelika, where we can watch art-house and  foreign films, very rarely found in Dallas.
The Angelika, where we can watch art-house and foreign films, very rarely found in Dallas.
The lake at the end is very popular for photoshoots
The lake at the end is very popular for photo shoots
A view of Bishop Street
A view of Bishop Street
No a pit stop at our favourite pub
No a pit stop at our favourite pub

 

What do you like about your neighbourhood?

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Donating is easy in Dallas

Every so often I like to cull my wardrobe. The advantages are manifold: the closet looks tidy, there’s more space for new purchases and somebody else can benefit from it.

When I lived in Buenos Aires, I would put my old clothes and shoes in bags and take them to our local church, where there is a special receptacle for donations. Alternatively, I would simply put them outside the front door and they would be gone in no time. Or even give them to the cleaning lady.

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But when I moved to Dallas, I had no clue what to do, where to go, who to give things to. I did a little digging and found a charitable organization called Goodwill. In a nutshell, they receive donations and sell them in their own stores, benefitting people in dire straits by selling products at affordable prices and by providing jobs.

Goodwill has collection points all over the city but they sometimes change their location and it’s not always easy to find them.

The other day I got a flyer in the mail from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. They asked for donations (clothes, shoes, books, toys and the like). I had a few things to give away so I called the number on the flyer.

makeawish0001

An automated phone menu guided me through the process. A voice asked me to punch the ID assigned on the flyer and to confirm my address. Once I did this, the voice asked me to leave everything outside my front door by 9.30 on the date printed on the piece of paper and to identify the bags clearly.

I left home Thursday morning and by the time I returned, everything was gone. They left a form for me to fill with the monetary value of my donations so I can deduct that from our taxes. The value is so low that in our case it’s not worth the trouble.

Donations ready

This may not come as a surprise to someone who lives in the US but to me, as a foreigner, it is a totally novel way of doing things. Very organized as well, which I like. Before, I would have never dreamed of deducting donation from taxes. It doesn’t feel very charitable. But it’s part of the local culture, so I embrace it.

Business and religion

One of the hot issues currently taking up pages in newspapers and air time in the United States is the impending Supreme Court ruling on the Hobby Lobby case. In a nutshell, the Hobby Lobby case is about religious freedom.

According to this Washington Post’s article, “It all starts with the Affordable Care Act [popularly known as Obamacare]. The law stipulates that employers need to provide health care for their employees that covers all forms of contraception at no cost. However, some for-profit corporations have insisted they should not have to pay for all of these services — especially those that conflict with their beliefs.”

This is a very controversial issue whose outcome will have a huge impact on American society.

In-n-Out
In-n-Out

Religion plays a very important role in American society. People are outspoken about their beliefs and I find it surprising. Although my country is officially Catholic, religion is a private matter and Bible bashing is extremely rare. I’m still not used to discussing my beliefs or to people trying to ram theirs down my throat. I respect everybody’s opinions; all I ask is that they reciprocate.

The reason I mention this is because I’ve noticed that the packaging for some products contain biblical quotes. Some can say that I’m not very observant, having discovered this only a few years after moving to the United States and they will be right. Also, in connection with this, some stores are closed on Sundays, an uncommon occurrence in the land of consumerism.

In-n-Out fries container
In-n-Out fries container

I did a little digging into this. I began by going to these companies’ websites to find out why. The stores I know that close on Sunday are Chick-fil-A, Sam Moon, a Texas-based accessories company, and Hobby Lobby, a big craft store. According to the FAQ section on their website, Hobby Lobby closes on Sundays “… in order to allow our employees and customers more time for worship and family.” The same goes for Chick-fil-A, a restaurant chain specializing in fried chicken. I sent an email to Sam Moon’s Customer Service department asking why they close on Sundays. They kindly replied that “our company is Christian owned. Sundays are used for going to church and spending time with family.”

In-n-Out burger container
In-n-Out burger container

The packaging of the hamburger restaurant chain In-n-Out has Bible quotes discreetly printed. I also sent them an email asking about this but they never replied. It’s not difficult to imagine the answer, though. More surprisingly, if possible, the fashion retailer Forever XXI has a Bible quote at the base of their yellow bags. They did reply to my enquiry saying that “The Bible quotes on the bags reflect the founder’s beliefs.”

As far as I know, this happens only in the US, but I would love you to let me know if religion plays such a key role in business (and packaging!)

 

School zones

As an expat, I had to adapt to a new culture, to its rules and social mores. Actually, it was a conscious decision, I decided to adapt and adopt new customs in order to integrate. I know that some people prefer to stay in a close-knit group, speaking their mother tongue and not venturing much outside their comfort zone. This may work for them but is not enough for me.

school zone

One of the new –for me- aspects of living in Dallas is that of driving. One can’t practically exist without a car, especially living in the suburbs. I never owned a car in Buenos Aires because I felt it wasn’t necessary so this was a big lifestyle change.

I’ve been living and driving in Dallas for eight years now. Every so often I reflect on what is different from my hometown of Buenos Aires and school zones is one such thing.

There are signs that warn you you;’re about to enter a school zone and should reduce your speed to 20 mph only if the amber light is flashing. You can resume your speed when told to do so by another sign. Although cellphone use in the car is allowed, it is strictly prohibited in school zones. I you ask me, authorities should ban it completely. I see many idiots texting and driving at 70 mph on the highways.

An evening of tango and classical music with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra

One of the radio stations I listen to while driving around Dallas is Classical 101 FM. The other day, I heard the end of announcement about tango and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. I thought it was a good combination worth exploring. So I did.

2. Dallas City Performance Hall
Dallas City Performance Hall

Accordingly, we got tickets for one of the Remix Concerts organized by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and held at the Dallas City Performance Hall. The concert started at 7. There was also a live tango performance in the foyer at 6, as well as free snacks, like mini empanadas, and drinks, which we had to pay for. We brought together our two cultures by ordering a cuba libre (me) and a gin and tonic (Sean).

7. Dallas City Performance Hall
Dallas City Performance Hall foyer. The spire of the Cathedral of Guadalupe in the background.

We hung out, drinking and nibbling, people- watching and chatting. It was fun and relaxed. I though I’d match the evening’s theme by wearing a short black dress, a red jacket and a red flower in my hair. As it turned out, I wasn’t the only one thinking along those lines!

11. Dallas City Performance Hall
Red and black theme

It was open seating. I must say I was impressed by the concert hall. It’s not too big –as these places go- and modern and cozy at the same time. And the seats are comfortable.

It was conductor Tito Muñoz’ debut with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and he put together tonight’s concert. His idea was to “keep it light and fun… all these pieces are fun.”

18. Dallas City Performance Hall
Inside the Dallas City Performance Hall, ready for the concert to begin

The first part of the program was Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks (1938), Tempo giusto – Allegretto – Con moto. It was a 15 piece ensemble. I’m not a music critic or connoisseur but I enjoyed the music very much.

Then came the tango. It was Astor Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires (Cuatro estaciones porteñas.) This time there were 35 musicians on stage. I absolutely loved it. The music took me back home. It brought images of the streets of Buenos Aires, its iconic buildings, its chaotic traffic, its people. It captured the atmosphere of the city perfectly. Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla revolutionized the world of tango with his nuevo tango style and his pieces capture the essence of Buenos Aires. The Four Seasons is a good example. The audience seemed to like it as well, as there was a standing ovation.

20. Dallas City Performance Hall
The full orchestra

The concert ended with Schumann’s Symphony No. 1, Spring (1841) with the full orchestra this time. It was magical.

Another well-deserved standing ovation to end this wonderful evening.