By Jesus A. Vargas
I’ve always known as a fact that the Coachella Valley was out of the way from major centers of population but I never felt it; that is to say felt a feeling of geographic isolation until I moved to Orange County.
There is only one big freeway that leads in and out of the whole Coachella Valley while just five miles away from my dormitory, I can get on the I-405, the I-5, the CA-55, the CA-73 and I’m sure others that I am not aware of and take them to seemingly anywhere. There is no sense of geographic isolation, I can follow the 405 South for only just a little while and visit the swanky shopping centers and beautiful vistas of Lake Forest and Laguna Hills or I can take the 405 North for five minutes and be in Santa Ana, a little Hispanic enclave in the heart of Orange County. The men walking around in sombreros, the Spanish music blaring from passing cars and the Mexican carnicerias are all reminiscent of my hometown of Coachella, so much so that I drive there to buy groceries or to get some cold horchata just to get away from the oppressive, I don’t know how else to put this, upper middle class whiteness, of the city of Irvine.
The city of Irvine is pretty darn boring with all its planned perfection and what-not. It’s all very scenic and pretty but it’s almost too much. There doesn’t seem to be a bush or tree out of place anywhere in the whole city.
Also it is a parking dead zone; you WILL get a ticket if you park anywhere overnight (or even for more than two hours in some places) or on ANY curb or just anywhere really. It is one of the strategies that the city uses to keep crime very low; if you can park your car anywhere to get way later you won’t want to commit a robbery.
On that same note, I also learned that the city of Irvine was one of the very, very, few cities in the country that requires ALL police officers to have a Bachelor’s Degree, yep that means even the officers out on car patrol. So yeah, it is one of the safest places in the country, but only move here permanently if you’re middle-aged, burdened with young children and have no life. All of the preceding of course doesn’t apply to the areas adjacent to the university where all the students live. People here like to have fun and although they have to keep it kind of out of sight to appease the city, police generally don’t go raiding house parties or anything like that.
Let’s just say I’ve had some (ok a lot of) fun times here. While the city sucks (things-to-do-wise), there is of course the not-so-small consolation of Irvine having awesome weather. I had this Pavlovian conditioning of expecting waves of extreme heat whenever I go outside during the day from this past summer at home and now even though I still prepare myself for it before going outside, the heat never comes. Eighty-degree weather is very, very nice and Newport Beach is only about five minutes away so you can go and enjoy it right next to the Pacific Ocean.
If you ever get bored of partying in the college area and want things to do, you are of course in the nucleus of Southern California with Los Angeles and San Diego both an hour away. Since my time here I’ve already been to Fullerton, Long Beach, Hollywood, L.A. and San Diego. Everything just seems connected and there just waiting for you, it really is in stark contrast to the microcosmic Coachella Valley. If I was bored back home well that was that, here I can go do any number of things if I’m bored at my dorm (which is admittedly pretty hard to be).
Let me also mention just how culturally diverse UC Irvine is; yes, there are a lot of Asians but there are different types of Asians. I’ve met Scotts, Armenians, Persians, Indians, Koreans, Spaniards, Koreans and I don’t know how many other different people from different countries or ethnicities. It’s a welcomedchange from only Hispanics and white people (not that I don’t like them or anything like that). So that covers the different feel and experience of living here in Irvine. I’ll get into classes, work, studying, midterms and the quarter system in the next entry…