Well, I couldn’t help humming that song by Glen Campbell as I took an early morning stroll along the beach on this, my first day in Galveston!
As a Visiting Scholar at the UTMB Institute for the Medical Humanities I will be here for two months working on the Drawing Women’s Cancer project and I will posting regularly about the whole experience.
Today was a time to recover from yesterday’s ten and a half hour flight and to get to know a little about where I have flown to! Having slept comfortably but uneasily last night in a strange bed I woke up very early with the sun blasting through the blinds. There was nothing else to do but go out. Exploring new places on foot and allowing myself to get lost so that I become familiar with the place by finding my way back is my usual way of approaching a new environment and today was no different. However, getting lost in Galveston is not so easy as it is laid out almost without deviation on the formal ‘grid’ system. Broad avenues from the Seawall to Harbourside traverse wide streets, often without ‘sidewalks’, creating ninety degree corners where traffic lights are suspended way above the road and the green man is replaced by a firm ‘walk/’don’t walk’. Ninety degrees describes both street corners, and the temperature in Galveston, and walking in the sunshine today was an absolute pleasure for me. One that I have not experienced since I time spent living and working in tropical Costa Rica.
Galveston island is only three miles wide and 30 miles long. It is home to Brown Pelicans and one of the largest and historically significant collections of 19th-century buildings in America. And all roads lead to the sea. As with all islands, but so viscerally so because of its size, the land and the sea here are so completely, intimately connected.
Galveston, the so-called ‘Grand Old Lady of the Gulf’ has quite a history since its ‘discovery’, from over the sea, by Spanish explorer, Juan de Grijalva in 1519. Most significantly in the more recent history books the hurricane of 1900 wreaked devastation on the island killing around six thousand people and destroying much of the infrastructure, and again, in September 2008, Hurricane Ike further battered the island. Broken then maybe, but certainly not dead! Even though things do not seem to move as fast here as in some cities I feel a richness and a warmth about the place that comes from more than the smell of the bougainvillea and the heat of the sun.
Tomorrow I start at the University. Regular posts will follow….