PAPERBACK BOOKS

TALES FROM TEXAS


Tales from Texas is an entertaining, insightful and personal view of American culture before and after September 11. 

The changes wrought on American society together with the sometimes frustrating yet often comical situations, are portrayed on a day to day basis by Kate and her husband Tony.  This   fascinating story is engagingly related by Kate accompanied by lively and perceptive commentary in the form of Tony’s ‘Letters from America’ to family and friends overseas. 

The reader will enjoy the amusing yet often exasperating    situations in which the Rouses found themselves during their three years in Texas – with Kate attempting to find her feet in a high powered corporate environment and Tony relishing his new role as a ‘kept man’, enthusiastically indulging his love of golf and travel. 

In Store Price: $AU22.95 
Online Price:   $AU21.95

ISBN: 1-9211-1822-9
Format: A5 Paperback
Number of pages: 169
Genre:  Non Fiction
 

 


Author: Kate Rouse 
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2006
Language: English



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About the Author  

Kate Rouse was born in Willenhall, Staffordshire , England and has spent over thirty years living and working in five different continents. This book - set in Texas - was written after returning to Australia from a three year period in America .

INTRODUCTION  

 

It was never intended that I write this book, at least in my mind! It was always going to be written by my husband Tony, who for a three year period had diligently penned Letters from America to keep our friends and relatives amused with his observations of life in Texas and America in general. The feedback from the letters was consistent – “Tell us more!”, “Write more often!”, “Great news!”, “Very amusing,” the comments went on and on, all to no avail. Tony was not in the mood for writing a book. So it was down to me to do something, and encouraged by the plethora of books on the market describing moving to live in France or Italy or somewhere else in Europe , I decided to tell our tale of moving to live in the Lone Star state. Very different to the challenges of moving to Europe .  

~~~  

I could hear the slow tip-tap of the computer keyboard coming from the study. With the one finger technique used by those not too familiar with the keyboard, Tony was busy sending emails to friends and relatives far and wide, with the news that we were about to live and work in what would be our fifth continent. At least for me it would include the working bit. He was quoting the Willie Nelson song, On the Road Again, which was particularly apt as we were heading off for a new adventure in Austin , Texas – the capital city of the Lone Star State .

It was January 2000, we’d just welcomed in the New Year and we were starting the planning for the move from down under to what was known by many as George Bush country. Little did we know at the time just what a significant period of US history we were to witness first hand – such a concentration of dramatic times over the three year period we spent there and the subsequent flow-through impact on the rest of the world.

            It all started in late 1999 when I was offered a new role in New Zealand , with responsibility for the company’s operations there. The organization I worked for was a leading US information technology outsourcing group, with offices all over the world (let’s call it ITSC) and they needed someone to run the NZ operation.

            Coincidentally, I was also approached to consider a move to one of their major offices in the US , with a view to initially helping establish a new e-commerce business. It was anticipated that after three to six months in the office in Austin , there would be other suitable leadership roles for me. So there was a choice.

The time seemed right to start exploring the world again, after spending the last eighteen years in Melbourne , Australia and if we were to make the move, why not go for something completely different? Our two daughters, Hannah and Simone, were both independent, with one living in London and one in Melbourne; and apart from one old and frail moggy, it seemed like it could be relatively easy! It is surprising how you can under-estimate the magnitude of such a move, especially when you have two homes full of furniture and junk – or precious possessions – that have been collected and hoarded by both children and parents for an extensive period of time!

So the decision to move to Austin was made, verbal commitments were given by ITSC, with the promised Letter of Offer to follow and the planning now began in earnest. Departure Day was to be April, 2000. No amount of planning, however, could have helped us face the difficulties we encountered during the early period of our stay in Austin .  

~~~  

But first a little background.

I am originally from the West Midlands area of England and met Tony, my husband, at Staffordshire College of Commerce. He pursued a career in accountancy and I went into computers – Information Technology (IT). Tony is from Liverpool and to this day remains an avid supporter of Liverpool football club. We married in 1968 and within a month were living in Ndola , Zambia , where Tony had been transferred in his employment with the Dunlop Group. I continued with my IT career at the computer headquarters of Roan Consolidated Mines. We later enjoyed two years in Singapore , then returned to the UK for a short time where our first daughter, Hannah, was born in 1974. The yearning for overseas adventures took us to Hong Kong in 1975 for the next five years, where second daughter, Simone, was born in 1976.

We tried to resettle in the UK in 1980 but times were uncomfortable in Liverpool and indeed England as a whole – this was pre-Thatcherism with strikes, high crime, high inflation and lousy weather the order of the day. Tony was offered a position with a leading international management consultancy in Melbourne . We decided to emigrate to Australia in early 1982, a decision never once regretted, with the next eighteen years spent raising a family, paying the mortgage and enjoying the Australian way of life. Naturally, we travelled in the Pacific region as well as making regular visits back to England and Europe every few years. Tony and I progressed in our careers, as did Hannah and Simone in their education. Both attended Melbourne University with Hannah becoming a doctor and Simone a financial analyst, completing her business degree at the University of Manchester and subsequently working in the City of London with a major investment bank.

Life was good but the opportunity to have a new adventure living overseas certainly had a great level of appeal and so the preparations began.


CHAPTER ONE

 

The Move from Oz

 

 

Finding a replacement for me in my job was relatively easy, as there was an appropriate person within the Australian operation who had previously held the position and was happy to move back into the role. Although I needed to continue to run the business for a further few weeks before we departed, having an identified successor allowed me to concentrate on the personal aspects of the move.

            First priority was to sell the country property we had bought only nine months earlier, a home with a beautiful little vineyard, dam, fruit trees, a large collection of wild ducks, rabbits and all manner of bird life. Selling appeared to be the only really serious option, as trying to maintain the house and land would be difficult, or so we thought. (Reflecting on that decision a few years later, it appears to have been a particularly bad decision; but hindsight is always a wonderful thing!)

We anticipated a difficult time selling, as the property market had been very quiet for a long time and country properties did not seem to be top of the agenda for most people. Listing it with the local real estate agent appeared to be the thing to do, and as luck would have it, a previous owner expressed interest in buying it back. A few weeks later, with very mixed emotions and lots of tears, the contracts were signed and we were able to put a tick against one of the major things we needed to achieve. It seemed easy!

The next challenge was to move all the furniture from the vineyard up to our family home in Melbourne and Tony set about organising this with the help of two willing friends. Weekends of packing followed, a removal van was hired, the date agreed and a whole day dedicated to driving, loading and unloading. Lots of blood, sweat and tears were shed that required copious quantities of beer to fix at the end of this exhausting day, but they made it without anything being broken. So now we had all our possessions in one place and could sort, sell, store and pack to our hearts content.

We needed to make our family home ready for letting and this required a great level of energy, a methodical process and a ruthless attitude when clearing our wardrobes, cupboards, garden sheds, roof storage, kitchen cupboards, bookshelves, desks… and on and on the list went. Boxes and boxes piled high with books, clothes, ornaments and an eclectic collection of other items, were taken to the charity shops, where they were gratefully received. Cupboards were re-organised to reflect the system invented to help identify what was to go to the US, what was to go to storage and what would ultimately be discarded but was needed for now – little round green stickers for US, orange for storage, red for discarding. Time consuming and laborious, but necessary and it worked!

Meanwhile, applications for US visas were prepared and lodged in the US , after a lengthy process of form filling and the careful documentation of what seemed like a full life’s history. One set of forms for Tony, one for me. I would have the working visa, Tony the accompanying spouse visa; we knew they were referred to as L1 and L2 visas. No one with an L2 visa is permitted to work and this was to be one of the major difficulties we faced when we arrived in the US . But at the time, things were progressing to plan and apart from the occasional, “Are we doing the right thing?” we had few qualms.

The time was fast approaching for departure. We had successfully organised for our elder daughter to move from the family home to an inner city property, taking Moggy our fifteen year old cat with her; we found a lovely family to move into our home, set the date for removalists and placed the advertisement in the newspaper for the sale of our two cars. The market for second-hand cars was in the doldrums as a result of the Australian government’s planned tax changes on imported cars and we were concerned we may not be able to find buyers for our ten year old Volvo and four year BMW. Most people we spoke to said we’d be lucky to get one phone call, but the gods must have been smiling on us that day, because the phone started to ring early on the Saturday morning of the advertisement. We were not sure if the words owners going overseas resulted in the impression of a potential bargain and led to a level of interest generally not experienced by others, but by midday, there was a queue of people waiting to test drive either the Volvo or the BMW.

There had been a great deal of activity in preparation for selling the cars, with much elbow grease being applied to washing, polishing and vacuuming until both cars gleamed. But there was also trepidation around how our temperamental Volvo would perform on the day. For as many years as I can remember the Volvo was reluctant to start, and a variety of tricks were needed to get the motor turning over smoothly. So what would happen now her morning of glory had dawned – would she be cantankerous and need a lot of coaxing or would she decide to put on her best show? With this in mind, Tony greeted the family waiting to do the test drive out in the driveway. He learned a little of the family’s background before they got into the car – they were of Greek origin and the son had come along with Mama and Papa. If they liked the car, the parents would buy it and the son would act as chauffeur, so all we needed now was for the Volvo to perform.

Tony settled Mama in the front seat making sure she had the maximum legroom possible and then settled Papa in the back seat, pulling down the armrest to give the final touch of luxury. What a salesman, definitely a missed vocation! Meanwhile I stayed inside, worried that when the crunch came, the car would not start. No matter how comfortable, at the end of the day, the car had to work. I heard a little choking noise from the car and felt that sickening sensation in my stomach that happens when I’m anxious, but at the second go it started, reversed out of the driveway and off they went down the road! Next came the BMW, with a number of couples wanting to test drive, which ultimately resulted in competing offers. By the end of the day, both cars were sold and we sat down with strong gin and tonics to celebrate another tick in the box!  

Further progress was being made, but we still needed to collect the US visas from the Consulate in Melbourne . There was a phone call to check if they were ready; a trip to the Consulate and a review of the passports was all that was needed. We knew we needed L1 and L2 visas and, yes, they were there safely stuck into our passports.

The formal Letter of Offer from the US group was still outstanding and this was a very important piece in the overall jigsaw. ITSC and I had discussed a number of things that were verbally agreed, but I was, at this point, putting my career on the line without the vital piece of paper. When it finally arrived I was surprised to see the title of Director – I was a Vice President in Australia and the title of Vice President carried a great deal of significance in the US . Oh well, I would be able to sort it out when I arrived, as we were leaving in just a couple of days.

The emotions began to churn around now, excitement mixed with anxiety. Would I be able to cope with the new role? What if there was no other senior role for me after the initial assignment? How would I handle working with Americans every day? Would Tony adjust to being a kept man as he fondly referred to himself? The questions were endless, but the one that always brought back some sanity was “What is the worst thing that can happen?” – we could come back to Australia earlier than planned.

With this in mind, the bags were packed, the house organised and the taxi was waiting outside. Tears and hugs with our elder daughter and floods of emotions in the car to the airport, but we were finally on our way to the Lone Star State . The image of Tony and Hannah hugging each other with tears streaming down their faces never left me and strengthened my resolve to make things work – we couldn’t go through all this emotional upheaval for nothing.

 

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