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March 8th, 1995, almost 25 years ago, I made a decision that I knew would change my life forever. I joined the United States Air Force.

I came to San Antonio in March of 1995 for basic training, but I can’t really count that as a true Texas experience since I never left the base. I grew up on the South Side of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where there was still piles of snow on the side of the roads and layers of ice on the ground in March. For a Wisconsinite, San Antonio was a tropical paradise. After 6 weeks in basic training I was sent to Wichita Falls for technical training. Here, I was able to have a new experience with Texas life. The mornings were very humid, and the afternoons were very hot. I was now in Tornado Alley and the big Texas skies filled with lightening were intimidating. I noticed the lack of trees and overhead cover. I felt the tallest thing out there was me and I’m only 5’4”. In 1997, I got my first assignment. I was sent to Ramstein, Germany.

After 5 years in Germany, it was time to move again. In 2002 I was sent to Abilene, TX, so now I’m actually a resident of Texas. First thing I noticed was the big hair and twangy accent. My daughter was 13 months old when we moved to Abilene and learned to talk while there. She actually started to develop that twang and I thought, “Oh my goodness, we’ve got to move”. From accents, to hair, to weather, and last but not least, the critters. I got to experience the wonderful (dangerous) critters in Texas; snakes, scorpions, black widows, brown recluse, fire ants--you name it. Bugs in Wisconsin are safe; you can pick them up, play with them. You can wear snakes as fashion accessories up there if you really want to. I learned quickly, that you don’t take the garbage out at night and to be very careful when moving something in the garage or yard. Fire ants were a constant battle. When my daughter was almost 2 years old, she was playing in our friend’s yard when she suddenly stopped, looked at me and started screaming and crying. I went to her to see what all the fuss was about, and she had fire ants all over her legs. We quickly hosed her off, but not in time to prevent dozens of bites. After 3 years, we did move and that accent my daughter was starting to develop was nipped in the bud.

13 years, and 4 moves later, in January of 2018, the Air Force sent me back to San Antonio. I like San Antonio. There’s never a dull moment. The people here are very friendly…until they get into their cars. Wow! Driving here is crazy. I have driven cars all over the world and experienced all kinds of different drivers. I’ve driven cars with the steering wheel on the other side, I’ve driven on both sides of the street, and I have to say, San Antonio drivers are the worst. My daughter is learning so many things not to do while driving; she’s scared to drive here, and I don’t blame her.

But, back to the friendliness outside of the cars, life is good here. I’ve met so many good people who are so helpful. That really made my move here so much easier. There is always something to do and the winters, compared to Milwaukee, are great.

Personally, this is a great place to live if you are military like me. “Military City, USA” is what they call it and that is very true. On the other hand, maybe it should be called “The Real Margaritaville”. There’s a Mexican restaurant on almost every corner and you can always get a good margarita. Even though San Antonio is the 7th largest city in the USA, it’s hard to believe. For me, it has a small town feeling instead of the crowded, fast-paced vibe of places like Chicago or New York.

Ashley Rubenstein is a freshman at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, majoring in mathematics. She is a military brat who has been all around the world, experiences many different cultures. Ashley was born in Germany and has moved six different times over the course of 18 years.

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