living in Utah — one year later

We have now been in Utah for a full year. We’re feel­ing set­tled and are hav­ing fun here. We’ve learned our way around, found friends, com­mu­ni­ties, vol­un­teer oppor­tu­ni­ties, I found a job (!), we’ve done some out­doorsy activ­i­ties (though not as much as either of us would like), and we’ve accli­mat­ed to the cul­ture for the most part.

Utah is just dif­fer­ent in some ways, with the dom­i­nant reli­gion influ­enc­ing sec­u­lar life in a fair­ly large way. The refugee fam­i­ly I men­tor was told by anoth­er vol­un­teer that Christ­mas isn’t big here, and that Hal­loween is much big­ger. That jives with what we’ve seen, but it’s influ­enced by reli­gion (the Christ­mas thing, at least) rather than just being less impor­tant. The insti­tu­tion I work for is a Utah busi­ness, so we don’t get Christ­mas Eve off, just Christ­mas Day.

Anoth­er thing influ­enced by reli­gion is the preva­lence of spe­cial­ty soda shops. There’s a big empha­sis on sweets rather than cof­fee and alco­hol. But those who aren’t LDS seem to drink a lot more cof­fee and a lot more alco­hol to make up for it.

Some of the pol­i­tics and legal stuff is weird, but it’s not ter­ri­ble, and we’ve got­ten used to it. I get angry about pol­i­tics in a lot of places, so Utah is just anoth­er instance of this.

The out­door activ­i­ties in this state can’t be beat. We’ve been to three nation­al parks this year (Bryce Canyon, Arch­es, and Canyon­lands), have gone camp­ing at Nine-Mile Canyon (pet­ro­glyphs all over the place), and have gone on a num­ber of hikes. No ski­ing last win­ter, but we’re hop­ing to change that this win­ter. There’s a walking/bike trail that goes from pret­ty far up north all the way south along a riv­er. We’ve only explored a few miles of it, but it’s quite invit­ing.

The cli­mate is more tem­per­ate than Kansas, still get­ting cold in the win­ter and hot in the sum­mer, but nowhere near the extremes of Kansas. The down­side of the cli­mate here is inver­sion, which comes from liv­ing in a val­ley between two moun­tain ranges. The pol­lu­tion stays in the val­ley, set­tling like smog and stay­ing there for up to weeks at a time, until a storm clears it out. It gets so bad that peo­ple are sup­posed to stay inside, and peo­ple who work out­side wear ven­ti­la­tors.

I’ve found peo­ple with whom to play board games, peo­ple with whom to knit, and a great voice teacher. Peo­ple are very friend­ly and wel­com­ing. My church is a won­der­ful com­mu­ni­ty. Work is a good place for me to be.

All in all, we’re hap­py here and think we’ll be here awhile.