Washington

My How You’ve…Changed

Before Mike and I lived in any new city, on any continent, we researched the area as best we could on the internet. We tried to find other expats who lived in the area so that we could ask them pointed questions about life in that city. We located grocery stores, bakeries, fresh markets, the local library, banks, and transit centers on a city map. If possible we also tried to locate information on crime statistics in a certain city.

Because we were heading back to Olympia, Washington, and we had only been away for seven years, we figured we knew enough about the area. Thus, we did no prior research. Before arriving we had planned to find something to rent in or near the downtown Olympia core.

Somehow, somewhere and without many people noticing, downtown Oly became a not-so-nice place to live. They even managed to turn my much-loved and often-visited Olympia Farmers Market into a tourist hot spot where the prices are now so outrageous that it is no longer a must-visit experience for many locals as it once was.

A walk through Sylvester Park in central downtown on a beautiful warm day had us walking through a maze of people, young and old, strewn all over the lawn, smoking and drinking. Many of the cities homeless now congregate on the lawns and under the trees. It was no longer a nice place to sit and enjoy a good conversation or a cup of coffee. When a city loses a place for families to play with their children, they have a problem.

Also, while walking around the city center Mike and I were shocked over the increased number of tattoo parlors we found spread throughout the city. When a city has more tattoo parlors than bookstores, they have a problem.

To better understand what happened here, I walked into several downtown businesses and chatted with the owners. I learned that over 80% of the downtown housing was now section 8 low income housing. Eighty percent is a major saturation. No one had been paying any attention to the housing infrastructure during the past seven years, and low income housing became the standard. When people run out of Section 8 assistance, they become homeless. Homeless people tend to remain where they are familiar and comfortable, and that equated to the downtown park.

We also noticed that there were no grocery stores to buy everyday staples in the city center. We wondered, where are people supposed to shop? We were told that they had to head out of the area to nearby Lacey or Tumwater to buy groceries or they had to pay the incredibly high end prices at the only grocery store in the area which is nearby but not located central to downtown.

Many of the businesses we had frequented and shopped in were no longer around. Many of the buildings are vacant and waiting for someone to come along and fill them. We learned that much of the turnaround was due to the type of people who fill the streets at night in Olympia because of the homeless situation and people no longer felt safe walking the streets at night. If people with money no longer want to dine at, shop in or even walk through your city center, how can one expect the restaurants and the businesses to thrive?

Is it too late for there to be a turnaround? Can something be done to lesson the number of section 8 housing options and to equal out the type of people they want to draw to downtown?   In a special three part report in The Olympian entitled Taking Back Downtown Olympia, several people are reportedly trying to do just that. Will they succeed? I hope so. Olympia is after all the state capitol of Washington, and it should be a bustling, vibrant, fun and safe place to live. I hope they can make it happen.

Until they do we will be living further north in Bellingham, Washington, where the statistics and our research indicate Bellingham is one of the best cities in not only Washington to live in but also in the United States. We therefore have learned our lesson. Just because we are American and just because we think we know our own country better does not mean we shouldn’t be doing our research on a city or a location with as much depth and clarity as when we researched for a safe place to live on four other continents. The mindset really does need to be; once an expat, always an expat.

Florence Lince

About.me/florencelince

 

A Walk amongst the Art

I love art. When Mike met me I owned quite a few paintings and sculptor pieces. He had never actually met anyone who would go to an art show and drop $1,000 or more on a painting, until he met me.

This coming weekend here in Olympia is the forty-ninth Olympia Arts Walk. Mike is doing his best to remain calm and while he won’t be able to keep me away at least he knows I do not have it in my mind to buy anything. Honest.

The city of Olympia has hosted these events twice a year for the past 24 years, one event in the spring and one in the fall. For this event 96 local and small business owners have opened their doors and they will be displaying artwork from mostly local artists in their establishments.

Over this two-day event, Friday, Oct. 3 from 5 to 10 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 4 from noon to 5 p.m., I will be armed with a map of the participating downtown businesses and I’ll be strolling along the arts walk path.

Cover art for the forty-ninth Olympia Arts Walk.

Because there are over ninety artists participating there is no way for me to see all of the artwork, most of which will be for sale. It will therefore be enough for me to just walk amongst the art for a time, to get to meet some new and hopefully interesting people, and to see some of the new businesses that have opened in the city’s core during the past year.

There will be food for sale, musical performances by various bands scattered throughout the downtown area and a new event, a Culinary Throwdown, to keep everyone entertained.

The Arts Walk was created as a showcase for local talent and it is a signature event here in Olympia. Many of the younger entrants of the event have actually gone on to study art at a university because of the positive feedback they have received from participants. There are many ways to give back to ones community and providing encouragement, and even becoming a patron of an aspiring artist isn’t a bad way to go.

Raised as I was in Buffalo, NY, I was exposed to the world-renowned Albright – Knox Art Gallery and I even took art classes there as a child. While the teachers were nice it didn’t take long for everyone to see that I wasn’t the second coming of Grandma Moses. I have however always appreciated artistic talent in others, no matter the medium.

The Arts Walk is not just a showcase for painters. There will be sculptures, Native American art, bead work, pottery, jewelry, photography, woodworking, blown glass and perhaps thee-dimensional art pieces.

Pablo Picasso once said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” I have always found this to be true. Good works of art move me and take me away to other places, to other times, to other dimensions. I am therefore looking forward to my walk amongst the art.

Florence Lince

About.me/florencelince

There’s no place like home…

I just don’t know where that is exactly

I was born in Buffalo, NY.  I escaped when I was 18.  That’s a joke based on years of dealing with harsh winter weather.  Buffalo is a beautiful city with a great history and warm people.  And the food!  I think what makes people laugh is that when they tell me that they are going to Buffalo we recount all the places they need to visit to eat some of the best food in the US.  Yes, they call that Buffalo Proud.

I moved from Buffalo, to Glendale, CA in 1978.  I stayed in CA until 2005.  I had homes and family in Nevada by then so I was going between the two states.  In 2005 I met my husband Mike (on a singles cruise to Alaska) and he was living in Washington State.  In December of 2005 I had sold both of my homes (one in Nevada and one in CA) to be with Mike full time in WA.  We made Olympia our home.  It was a beautiful little city and is actually the capital of WA.  I enjoyed my time in Olympia very much.  They have an awesome farmers market and they host the yearly northwest a cappella competition which Mike and I attended.

In 2007 Mike wanted a career change and we moved to Redmond, Oregon.  It was a nice little town with a very homey and comfortable environment.  We lasted until 2008 when Mike took a better job based in Salem, Oregon.  I really liked Salem.  It has a great university town feel and is again the capital city of the state.  We lived across from the weekly farmers market and the city was central to all things cultural.  What was hardest on me was the white supremacist feelings in the neighborhood and with my clearly ethnic looks I never felt safe unless Mike was around.  I had never lived in an area of the US with such a feeling and while I was angry as hell about this situation it also made me incredibly sad that in this day and age stupidity and bigotry ruled the day.

By 2010 I had had enough of cold weather and we moved to Las Vegas.  Now, you can move to Vegas on two conditions.  One, that you do not like to gamble and two that you like it warm.  Mike and I do not gamble.  In fact in the two years we lived in Vegas Mike never stepped into a casino unless he was going to a buffet to eat.  Not too many people can do that in Vegas.  The second factor, liking it warm, really takes a lot of learning.  It’s not always scorching hot in Vegas, they do get some cool evenings.  It’s just that having it warm outside all the time is exhausting, so you have to learn to adjust.  Mike did a great job of it.  The real problem with Vegas is that making friends is really hard.  The attitudes of people in Vegas are just not geared towards anyone trusting someone else.  They are so used to people scamming them or cheating them that they don’t trust.  When Mike decided in 2011 that he had enough of the working life and wanted to retire I wasn’t all that upset over it and we looked forward to the next adventure.

I guess you can say I’m lucky since I have always enjoyed every place I have lived.  I can find something good about every place.  I just have never felt that I belonged in any of these places long term and no place has ever felt like home to me.  I have always had a bit of the wanderlust that people talk about.  Most people in my family stopped asking me “how are you” ages ago, they learned to ask, “where are you now”.  As Mike and I keep moving from country to country we have met some great new friends and have lived in some wonderful countries, but home?  I’m not sure what that is exactly.  If home is a place where I feel comfortable and happy and have everything I need then I guess every place we’ve been is home to me.  I think I’m lucky in this regard.  It helps me to want to keep traveling and seeing new places.  Maybe some day I’ll be a homey and have roots and one place to call home.  Until then I’ll just make the world my home…

Florence Lince

www.6monthers.com