Are you there St. Patrick? It’s me, Sarah

“Hope you’re not afraid of snakes!”

I’m in Orchard Park, my usual dog-walking haunt, and a man striding towards me has just stopped to announce there’s a snake about 12 feet from where I’m standing. I’m rooted to the pavement and suddenly very conscious of my bare ankles (spring has finally arrived, yay.)

“Don’t worry, it’s just a small one. Twelve inches max!” he adds, before continuing merrily on his way.

My life flashes before my eyes. I’m thinking about all those early morning and late night walks in the grass near our apartment where Milo likes to do his business. I’m also thinking, Why the hell didn’t anyone tell me there would be snakes in Oregon? You’d expect that kind of carry on in Arizona, but not here, in the damp, leafy Pacific Northwest. Although hang on, surely snakes, being reptiles, like damp conditions? And leaves are a great place to hide. Snakes are sneaky like that.

I strain my eyes to see if I can make out a snakey looking figure on the path ahead. There are yellow flower yokes strewn around willy nilly. I inch forward, dragging Milo for protection. And then I see it. A snake! A real life snake! Not in a zoo or a terrarium, in the wild.  I grab my phone, and keeping what I feel is a safe distance (about 11 feet) I try to snap a quick picture.

“Is that another snake?”

I’m sure the voice behind me is coming from a huge, person-sized snake but it’s just another man walking his dog.

“Are you telling me there are more?” I squeak.

“Oh yeah,” Man No.2 replies knowingly. “I just passed one up the street. Bigger than this one though. About 18 inches.”

Suddenly all I can think about is snakes. They’re everywhere. Every twig, every leaf, every movement is a throbbing mass of snakes. I never quite recovered after the boa constrictor ate the donkey in The Swiss Family Robinson. And Milo is no use. I just know if he saw a snake moving he’d grab it and try to play with it. I had been preparing myself for the inevitable day when he leads me to a dead body but this snake thing came out of nowhere. Is it on me? I FEEL LIKE IT’S ON ME.

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Oregon: my first impressions

I’m here, y’all!

On Wednesday morning we packed up the last of our apartment in Chandler (sob!) and headed for the airport via a quick stop at Desert Breeze Park for an auld leg stretch. I knew we had been approved for a housewares package at the new gaff (thank you, Massive Multinational Company That Cannot Be Named!) but we tried to squeeze in some sheets and pillows cos our shipment doesn’t arrive til next week and we weren’t really sure what “housewares” included anyway.

The airport was really quiet so check in was a breeze and we even managed to sneak an extra bag in with our hand luggage. That would never happen with Ryanair. Before boarding we sat down for a drink during which I started banging on about all the stuff I was going to miss about Arizona. In the middle of my spiel I had a quick look at Twitter and discovered that our local mall, Chandler Fashion Centre, was at that moment closed because there was a gun-wielding madman down there taking hostages. It was at that point that I was ready to say goodbye to Arizona.

Our 1,009 mile flight north was fairly uneventful, unless you count the pilot announcing that there was a sick passenger on board and basically asking if there was a doctor in the house. When we landed the paramedics boarded and stretchered off an old man, who I hope was okay in the end. Seriously, drama was just following me around that day.

And so, we were in Oregon! Thanks yet again to The Massive Multinational Company That Cannot Be Named, we were picked up at the airport by a chauffeur and driven swankily to our new apartment. It was dark at that stage but the differences between Oregon and Arizona were already screaming at me. For one, the weather was basically the same as Dublin: it was cold and wet. Also, everything here is much more normal sized. I can’t stress how big the roads are in AZ, here they’re much more manageable and crossing the street doesn’t take 20 minutes. Oh, and the houses are so cute! No more low, stucco buildings with small windows designed to keep out the heat. Here it’s all about timber. They’re just adorable.

After about an hour we got to our new gaff which I LOVE. I really liked our AZ gaff too, so much so that we were going to see if we could live in the same community when we go back, but this place blows its socks off. It’s really bright and airy, with a vaulted 15 foot ceiling in the living room, and a much nicer kitchen. And lots of windows everywhere. Plus, we found out that the housewares package meant we were arriving to a hotel situation: the bed was made, we have loads of appliances (like an iron!) and even towels. I never want to move house without The Multinational Company That Cannot Be Named again.

I had been perving on our neighbourhood for ages via Google Maps and it didn’t disappoint in the flesh when we went out for dinner. Although I have my driver license, I will only have my legs and bike for transport Monday to Friday, so the outdoor mall right across the street is going to be my new best friend. It has clothes shops and restaurants, and there are a couple of supermarkets nearby too, including my personal favourite, Trader Joe’s.

Here’s a rundown of some other stuff I’ve noticed in the last 36 hours:

  • People here are really outcdoorsy. A lady from the relocation company came to show us around the ‘hood yesterday and she said basically everyone goes skiing or camping or hiking at the weekends once the weather warms up.
  • There’s a light rail (MAX), tram and bus service available and Oregonians actually use them. In downtown Portland, the MAX is free so it’s really easy to explore. How cool is that?
  • The international headquarters for Nike is just down the road and apparently if you’re spotted running in the surrounding park wearing a competitor’s T-shirt a security guard will step out and hand you a Nike one. (The rule doesn’t apply to running shoes, I checked.)
  • The Oregon Ducks are playing in some big game on Monday and apparently everyone is very excited indeed.
  • We now have a sofa bed, which I hope will lure visitors across the Atlantic. Anyone? ANYONE? BUELLER?

Last night I sent in my dog adoption application form so please cross your extremities and pray I hear something back soon!