Day Two in Oregon: Eugene

25 Oct

My God, the culture shock.

I spent the day exploring downtown Eugene and the University of Oregon campus, just to see what things are like, if I like it, could I live here, or what. And survey says: Or what.

This town is not for me. I am SO completely different than the people that live here. Push it back into the country a bit and that’s just fine, rather nice, actually…but here in Eugene…Nah.

I started the day sleeping (what I thought was) absurdly late (and actually turned out to only be 9am) then planning out my day’s itinerary. I didn’t want to over-do it, so I planned on just Eugene and UofO. I got directions, wrote them down, memorized them (like the freak I am) and set off around noon.

Eugene/Springfield actually reminds me a lot of Savannah. There’s a riverfront, there’s a huge cultural base in downtown, and the rest looks like you should avoid it like the black plague.

Mind you, I said LOOKS. Looks are apparently deceiving, here. I saw quite a few people waltz right into buildings I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole in Savannah. The way I was raised, and the way things are in Savannah, you didn’t go into a building or even a part of town that HAD that kind of building unless you wanted to get raped, robbed or murdered.

MAJOR culture shock. My itinerary had me going to UofO first, then to City Market, then to a brewery (which I shall not name) all within about seven miles of each other. Technically, I could have taken the bus. That’s another humdinger for me, ‘cause in Savannah, locals don’t take the bus unless they absolutely HAVE to.

You know, I’d better tell you about it from the beginning.

The roads really are marked horribly up here (I think I shall write to the local DOT with some advice). I finally arrive at UofO and park. Nothing’s going as planned, seems Murphy’s Law is alive and kicking and riding along in my backpack, but that’s okay. I take it in stride and start exploring.

My LORD, the TREES!!! I could spend a decade taking pictures of the trees just on the UofO campus alone. Not to mention the surrounding areas. Some of the architecture on campus is really quite lovely and dates back to the Victorian Era (youngin’s to us Savannahians). I have loaded up another slideshow for your enjoyment here. (yay, link!)

So I wander around the campus, taking photograph after photograph and I start asking myself: Do I see myself here? Is this where I want to be for two years, at least? I think back to myself: Well, it’s gorgeous and a perfect place to write a story. I could sit in the parks for days on end and soak up the fabulous coniferous smell that permeates every step taken (Pine Fresh! Whee!).

I look around and think, yeah, I could do this. But then I realize it’s not everything. It’s not perfect. It’s not fantastic. But it’s college. It’s a vehicle to get me from point A to point B. Should I really care that much about how the campus LOOKS?

Considering I’m looking into Architecture (Interior Architecture, to boot) then I’d say: Yes. Yes, I should wonder whether I’m in love with the campus. I should be able to know whether or not I’d feel comfortable here. Wanna know something funny about that statement of feeling comfortable? I about jumped out of my skin when this tiny, cute little asian female asked me where something was. What’s funny is that I was looking at her like she was a rabid animal. I am so unused to people approaching me in strange places, so unused to just general amicability to one’s fellow human, that I’ve become the epitome of paranoid.

If anyone stopped for a moment and looked in my direction, I glared at them until either they walked away or I did. I couldn’t be on the same path as someone else for thinking they were following me or them thinking that I was doing the same! I was constantly whirling about, watching my reflection, shadows, listening to my environment…All because I am THAT accustomed to being ALONE. Yes, I have family and I work in the Big Orange Box and I live in suburbia with my boyfriend and dog and neighbors… But I have closed myself in. I have become BOXED up, unable to simply be comfortable in an open air market.

Which is where I went next. Hippies abound in this place…and I mean the Savannah definition of Hippie. Loose, comfortable clothes, crazy hair, tattoos, piercings, pottery, tie-dye, hemp clothing…you name it, it was there. I did get a rather lovely recycled bracelet made from a belt, plus some wonderful organic soap. But I didn’t see anything I couldn’t have gotten back home. This place is literally as if you slapped Savannah, GA and Huntsville, AL together, mixed it all up, took out QUITE a few of the demographics and plopped it in a valley in Oregon.

People MOVE at a different pace, here. You can drive and not feel like you’re on your death bed on wheels. In fact, most of the town is 35mph or less. And people drive that or less. It’s very relaxed. If you need to get over, it’s okay, they’ll let you in. There’s no rush. It’s not neck-or-nothing like it is in the Southeast. I’ve driven in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. If you don’t pay attention and grab the wheel in a white-knuckle-death-grip with your foot flat on the floor against the gas pedal, you’ll end up like the possum on a half-shell you just passed (otherwise known as an Armadillo).

So, lackadaisical driving aside, I mosey on over to the brewery that was holding a hop-tasting festival. I arrive and drive right on by. The people looked normal, fine, same as I just left the market, but that part of town is something that my daddy and my boyfriend would NOT want me going into. So I didn’t. Like the good little Southern girl I am.

I drove away and realized that this was NOTHING like Savannah or Huntsville. There, my judgment would have been sound. Here, I’m not so sure. I don’t regret not stopping there, it looked like a bunch of college guys and I would have felt like a grasping old woman amidst them. (Insert sarcastic remark here) I just started thinking, that’s all.

In Savannah, and other places, you can tell a woman’s station in life by what she wears. Here in Eugene, it’s anything goes. Literally. I saw a child that looked to be about maybe six or eight years old with ORANGE dreadlocks. It was all I could do to only blink in response. My mouth was glued shut, I promise you. Here, there is no telling station or occupation by clothing or hairstyle. It’s literally whatever you want, however you want to be…just do it. No one blinks.

I’m both afraid and jealous of that. So used to definitions and stereotypes am I that this utter lack of them is shocking, to say the least.

So here I am, in my hotel, writing this out and planning my excursion to either the Three Sisters or Florence and the Coast tomorrow. I still haven’t decided which. For now, I’m taking some ‘me’ time and writing my little fingers off on a fanfic I’ve been chomping at the bit to get down.

Oh, and the score for the day? Oregon’s still down by two.

Ta!

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