Visa Petition Granted!!!

The title of this one kind of gives the game away here but WHAT A RELIEF!

During the 2 weeks waiting for our answer, every morning James would take a walk to the mailroom to see if any post had arrived for us. I never held out much hope for it coming on time anyway, let alone 5 days early. So when he appeared with a shaky hand holding an envelope marked ‘United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’  I almost peed my pants. I had grand plans for this moment… I thought about filming it as a live reaction video but then the thought of it being rejected wasn’t appealing to catch on film so I didn’t.

We previously had a confirmation with instructions saying we would be notified of an approval via email, so when the letter appeared my heart sunk as I assumed it was a rejection. There is literally no way to tell exactly what they are looking for in the application, or what the priority is when considering a petition, plus everyone in the US has been telling us how “they aren’t letting anyone in” at the moment so I wasn’t exactly filled with optimism. Anyway I ripped it open and after a good 10 seconds of trying to decipher what the notice actually said I saw the magic word “APPROVAL”. Wooo hooo!

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That morning we had earnest intentions of enjoying a healthy dinner of salmon and vegetables which promptly went out the window in favour of a celebration consisting of live music (obviously) and a very brief experience of 5th Street – affectionately known as ‘Dirty 5th’. It is basically a strip of bars all open to the street, competing with who can sell the cheapest drinks while playing the loudest live music. I was tempted by a bar advertising excellent line dancing but James wasn’t convinced.

Anyway the next steps in terms of finalising the visa is to fill out ANOTHER online form, and book an interview for when we are back in the UK. As I am technically granted the visa, James gets a spousal visa too as long as we can prove we are married, which sounds simple in theory but who knows! As far as my extensive research shows, this part is the straightforward bit so pretty much just going through the motions in order to get the final paperwork.

So, what else have we been up to? We went for a walk up to the top of Mount Bonnell which has an amazing view of the river. Only about a 15 minute drive from us and a short walk up a hundred or so steps and you can see for miles, as well as a glimpse onto (or even into if you are so inclined) some of the priciest houses around. Many of them have their own jetty and boat-garages on the river, they are pretty spectacular. It seems like people just come up here at sunset with a cooler full of beers to watch the sun go down.

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Obviously my favourite house is the one painted entirely pink

Incidentally James seems to have become obsessed with coolers of all shapes and sizes. Bit weird. Slightly concerned.

I discovered a place on instagram called ‘The Cold Cookie Company’ which is a food truck that serves insane ice cream/cookie/sundae combinations so of course we had to investigate…

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The big one was mine but I let James try a bit. I’m nice like that.

We also visited McKinney Falls State Park which is local to us (10/15mins drive) – it is a massive park with a waterfall, hiking trails and swimming holes. I can’t quite explain how hot it was but we only managed a 20min walk before we had to retreat to the car. We didn’t take any swimming stuff with us which was a mistake but at one point I put my hand in the water by a little creek to try and cool down and it felt warm like a bath. YUCK!!!! The swimming holes were actually cooler though and people were hanging out for the day there – lots of BBQ grills scattered all over the park for you to use, as well as camping areas and picnic tables.

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Triumphant after walking for 10mins. Now gimme air con.
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James guarding his cooler bottle, making sure I don’t drink all the water.

We went for brunch at a place called ‘Bangers’, which describes itself as a Sausage House. Lots of jokes to be made here but far too low-brow for my sophisticated humour, obvs. It is on Rainey Street which is a previously residential street but with all the houses now converted to restaurants. It is a place the ‘locals’ avoid as it gets so busy on the weekends but I think it’s fun. We decided to get there for 10am when it opened and there was a line down the street to get in!! Fortunately the place is massive so we didn’t have to wait for a table. Again they have live music on the weekends and their brunch is pretty spectacular.

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Band setting up
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Manmosa Time!! We shared this between 3 people but everyone else in the place had one each.

They serve “Manmosas” – a stein filled with champagne and a splash of orange juice. Also if you get a tattoo of their logo (a pint of beer and a sausage arranged in the shape of a cowboy boot) they will pay for it. How about that for a genius marketing strategy?

Achievements
• Visa petition granted!!! We will be allowed to work in the US for 1 year
• James is proud to announce he now eats scrambled eggs
• Exercise is paying off – I can do one entire pull up
• So far avoided skin burning / melting / heatstroke

Concerns
• James’ football team seem stuck in a losing streak, plus he is sporting a swollen foot
• Our air conditioning bill

Until next time folks. Next week we embark on our road trip to Nashville and I am EXCITED! J&T x

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Sharks in the lake and guacamole in the pool.

About a year ago when we started toying with the idea of coming out to Austin I saw this picture:

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…and thought it looked like the coolest thing E.V.E.R. So obviously when I saw Alamo Drafthouse ‘Jaws on the Water’ again at Lake Travis we had to go. I booked the tickets about a month ago (that flew by!) and all of a sudden the time was upon us.

We drove about half an hour to Volente which is a really cool little man-made beach on Lake Travis. There are a few water slides and play areas plus a bar – kind of like a mini water park. We also met up with a couple of people that we’d seen on meetup who were going and hung out with them while we were there which was nice.

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After hopping in a golf cart from our car to get to the entrance, the driver kindly informed us that he worked for tips. Cue awkward “oh… ok then” exchange. We British are not so used to the tipping culture so we are slowly getting used to it (we gave him a tip, don’t worry we’re not monsters). We got ID-ed on entering and I had forgotten mine which meant I didn’t get an over 21’s wrist band… which meant I was driving home!

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On the back of the golf cart, trying to decide how much tip to give

The film started around 9pm once the sun had gone down – we settled into our ‘Floaties’ or ‘Tubes’ (apparently calling it a ‘Rubber Ring’ is hilarious to Americans so we need to stop doing that) and waited for the mauling to begin. What I hadn’t realised beforehand is there were divers in the lake to randomly touch people’s legs under the water so every so often you’d hear an almighty scream and wonder what the hell was going on. That coupled with the intro speech informing us that there were eels in the lake to look out for meant I was a little on edge for most of it. Plus my tube kept drifting and spinning around the wrong way… engrossed in a scene then all of a sudden I’d get a stranger’s foot in my face as they had bobbed towards me. Friendly! At the end of the film when the shark finally dies they let off fireworks too which was a fun bonus. All in all a very cool experience which I am sure we will remember for a long time.

James doing his very best shark impression.
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Waiting for the sun to set so the film could start!

That weekend we also discovered our new favourite place… Hula Hut. We had grand plans to go for a walk and then for a drink but as the day got hotter the walk seemed less and less appealing and we ended up just doing the drinks instead. Good times.

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We arrived at around 7ish and could see everyone queueing up inside being told there was an hour wait for a table. Waaaaat. When we spoke to the hostess she told us we could sit outside right away and it was ‘self seating’ – no problem for us! What fools these locals are, waiting an hour for a table inside when there were loads of free ones outside that they could just sit at themselves and be served right away.

Then we sat down and started sweating. All became clear.

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Me pretending to be serenely admiring the view when really I was trying to unstick my bum cheeks from the chair.

There is a beautiful view over the water and the Tiki-theme feels really fun and relaxed, enhanced with a background soundtrack of choice 90s pop hits. PLUS there was a complimentary ‘chips and salsa’ station where you help yourself as much as you want – we were living the dream! As the sun started to set we were getting hungry but also starting to reach our dry-clothing-to-perspiration-ratio limit so we decided to head to Soco for (yep you guessed it) TACOS!!!!!

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Trying to get his tongue to stop burning after eating a taco aptly named ‘Brushfire’.

Also this week was the 4th of July – essentially a day for everyone to have a BBQ and watch fireworks. Some new friends kindly invited us over to spend a pool day with them which was a lot of fun! It is a little nerve-wracking to move abroad without knowing a single person and thinking about making new friends, so it was reassuring to know at least one family find us normal enough to have in their home ha ha. We experienced true Texan hospitality – ate like kings and swam like dolphins. (Not my best turn of phrase, I’m working on it. Suggestions in the comments!)

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So a massive thank you to them for taking such good care of us and giving us our first official 4th July – even going to the trouble of having Spurs games playing on every TV in the house! There was also a guacamole in the pool incident which was hilarious, and luckily it wasn’t either of us that dropped it 🙂

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The only downside to the day was this – yikes.

Lesson learned – don’t attempt to spend all day in the pool out here and not suffer!

 

Achievements
• Experienced a proper 4th July
• Making friends with nice people!
• Received the official ‘receipt’ for our visa petition – things are underway
• Regularly getting ID-ed in order to drink or buy alcohol

Concerns
• Sunburn
• The forecast this week is 39ºC
• Trying not to think about the visa petition

Until next time folks 🙂 J&T

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Enjoying $2 Brunch Mimosas. Blurred vision occurs when you enjoy them too much.