It was the end of Summer in India when I decided I liked the season way too much for it to end so soon. So, I moved to a place where Summer refuses to leave till Fall starts to force its way in, sometime in September, only finally succeeding as October comes around. Beginning with the more-than-comfortable South Indian population, first day movie releases, wonderful Indian restaurants, and enough roaches to go to war with, there couldn’t have been a better segue to this South Indian’s American life than Arizona.
I still remember the scorching heat of the fateful August afternoon I first came to the Grand Canyon State. I hated every moment of it, until I didn’t. Arizona is not romantic like, say Seattle, that you tend to fall in love at first sight. It is like the uncomfortable night when you’ve had way too much coffee to go to sleep that you lay awake, twisting and turning, then you fall asleep all of a sudden. That’s how I came to be fond of the state. It took its time, but it was worth it (or perhaps it was Stockholm Syndrome. We’ll never know).
I lived in Tempe, a reasonably sized university town. It was happening, and quiet all at the same time. You’re never short of things to do when you go to school in a place where pub crawls and 7 am classes happen on either sides of the same road. I was well removed from the school that I got a glimpse of living in the residential part of the city while at the same time not missing out on watching the Superbowl at the loudest sports bar.
Golden sunsets in Tempe.
Writing this feels almost like sharing about my secret crush to someone I just met. I’ve never spoken highly about the state to anyone. There are other places I swear by, those that I’ve explored much more of than Arizona, and I surprised myself when I thought “damn, I miss Tempe!”
I didn’t make many friends in AZ. In fact, I’ve made only a handful of friends after moving to this country. Back in Arizona, I mainly spent my time with four people, three of whom were my roommates, and the other was my friend from school. But I had more than my fair share of fun. I drove in a car all alone for the first time, slept through an exam for the first time, worked at my first job that had nothing to do with what I was studying, stayed up all night playing Monopoly, walked two miles from the university lab on several occasions just for the heck of it, and did plenty of things only a carefree student can afford to do.
This included a whole lot of traveling (I will never have 9 hour work weeks in my life, ever!). In my first year, I had a very small set of things I’d do — attend classes whenever I wasn’t sleeping, take advantage of first world internet and watched movies and TV shows, or sell my soul to Chipotle. Toward the end of the first year in USA is when I realized there’s plenty of fun to be had, and time in school was fast running out. Though I’d seen a handful of states by the end of my first Summer (I escaped the peak of Summer as I’d moved out of the state for a couple of months), I tried to see as much as Arizona as possible in my second year. That also was when I’d gotten my driving license.
Coconino National Forest — Flagstaff, AZ.
Fall is a beautiful season no matter where you are, and in Arizona, it brought some rain, some life, and the much anticipated relief from the summer.
Sedona and Flagstaff are two places one should make it a point to visit in the late Fall/early Winter. Fun fact: Flagstaff has ski resorts, and gets quite a bit of snow in the Winter.
Around Thanksgiving is when I visited Flagstaff. It was more of an easy access to Grand Canyon idea rather than Flagstaff itself. I wish I’d seen more of Flagstaff though. The drive was fantastic, as I get way too excited whenever I have to drive a car. It was a pretty ambitious itinerary though there were four of us as I was the only one who was to drive — Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, Sedona, Las Vegas, then back to Tempe. It was absolutely worth it.
I will admit, I didn’t expect the Grand Canyon to be cold. I am a fan of sunrises and sunsets, and after having heard enough about the Grand Canyon, we decided to catch the sunrise over there. Cold winds were slapping my face, freezing my palms so badly that I was legitimately risking myself by trying to take pictures. It was a sunrise I will not forget.
Sunrise at the Grand Canyon is quite the sight.
This is how I fell in love with the place, slowly, as I saw more and more of it. There’s so much I’d missed seeing when I could have — Lake Havasu with its aquamarine waters, plenty of parks, and forests, the casinos and golf clubs in Phoenix, and a host of other things. But the things I did see, will stay with me for a long time in the form of the conversations that were had there, and the memories that were made there.
Those were testing times, but on this day, which was my last day in Arizona, I felt as light as the balloons you see here.
I couldn’t wait to get out, and now I sit here wondering when I will get another opportunity to go back. I sometimes wonder what it is that I miss about Arizona — the place, the people, the memories, or whatever it was that made it home for 2 eventful years.