Trip to CA

The following was originally an e-mail sent to every address I could think of. If it didn’t reach you, I’m sorry bout that, but at least now you get to enjoy the pictures!

My Dearest Friends and Family,

I am writing to tell you of the latest adventure in the lives of Amanda and I: moving to Southern California to begin our professional careers. It’s hard to decide where to start in such a broad topic as this, so I’m just going to jump into it. Don’t expect too much organization or narrative flow.

So Amanda and I made the trip from Pennsylvania to Laguna Hills, California with the gracious help of her parents. We left early afternoon on Thursday, June 5th, and arrived at our new home around noon on Monday the fifth. We rented a twenty-something foot Penske truck to ship all our belongings. We towed our Lebaron behind the truck, and drove the Escort separately. The original idea was that I would take turns driving the truck with Amanda’s dad, but he decided it was too difficult to handle with the car being towed behind it, and chose to drive the entire way himself. I offered to take a turn at it, but when he thought it wasn’t a good idea, I certainly didn’t push it.

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So the trip was long (it really was!) but uneventful. The animals rode in the back seat of the Escort. Teddie took a long time to realize that this trip wasn’t as exciting as driving down the road to the dog park, and he would often stand with his head next to the driver’s, waiting to arrive at our destination. Once he finally learned to lie down he was good. He didn’t even mind having to share the seat with our iguana, Yoda.

Yoda travelled in a medium-sized wire dog cage wearing two thick full-body harnesses, and she was NOT happy. (She wore two because she’s managed to break single harnesses before by wrestling with the leash.) She spent a lot of her time clinging to the walls and ceiling of the cage. Neither animal ate much during the trip, which turned out pretty well, since they didn’t make many messes. And they still survived. That’s important too.

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The trip itself was fairly cool. We saw the St. Louis Arch, but not many other sights. Amanda’s mom brought a Cracker Barrel map, and we counted Cracker Barrels along the way. Which, by the way, we have none of out here, so if you stop at one, be sure to enjoy it. I don’t remember the exact count between Pittsburgh and CA, but Amanda thinks it might be 27. The cool part about the trip was the changes in terrain across the States. Things got flat fairly quickly after Ohio. Many of the central and southern states were extremely flat, and disappointingly boring. But New Mexico and Arizona were beautiful, with their red rolling canyons and valleys.

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I said the trip was uneventful, but that’s only mostly true. We hadn’t been able to formally reserve our apartment before we left, since we had only made our decision a few days prior, and the paperwork hadn’t yet gone through. When trying to get in touch with the leasing office, we learned that people in California take five hour lunch breaks, which begin at ten o’clock. (We subsequently found that this was only the case at our apartment complex, and not all of California, but we were pretty excited by this prospect at the time.) Combined with the constantly changing time differences (we gained an hour for three days straight! Three 25 hour days!), it was very difficult to get in touch with our apartment, to find out whether we did indeed have a place to live once we arrived in California. When we finally got through to the correct person, the answer was no. Basically the problem was that they thought we didn’t have a high enough income to rent with them. Remember that Amanda didn’t have a job lined up at that point (she still doesn’t yet, but I’ll get to that). To make an already long story shorter, we juggled various options over the next few car ride – filled days until they finally grew annoyed at our constant harassment and let us have the apartment.

The apartment itself is awesome. It’s not much space, less space in fact than we used to have at the Portsers’, but there are lots of closets. We never had closets before, and we love them. Every one of them is filled to the brim with storage boxes. The end result is, although we have less space, we have much less out (yes, Amanda even convinced me to leave some of my Star Wars figures in a box). The effect is that we have more space than ever! One day we’ll have an attic, and then we can live happily ever after.

Enough about closets. Our apartment is on the ground floor, and has a nice enclosed wrap-around porch. Teddie is capable of jumping over the wall, but he hasn’t tried it yet, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed. We have 1.5 baths, which means there’s a single shower and toilet, but a mirror & sink combo on either side of the bathroom. Very convenient for guests, and people who like to alternate mirrors daily. The first area you come to through the front door is the living room / dining room / kitchen. It’s actually quite nice that it’s all open. There are a lot of windows, and a counter top that separates the kitchen from the main area. Yoda’s habitat is in the corner of the living room, immediately next to the door leading to the porch (the porch is separate from the front door). This is actually rather inconvenient, as Yoda has learned to head right for Teddie’s food bowl in the dining room when we let her out. Aren’t iguanas supposed to be vegetarians?

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Down the hall from the kitchen, you have the bathroom on the left, the guest bedroom on the right (now it’s the computer room), and our bedroom at the end. The guest bedroom is small, especially having our two computer desks (thanks Mom & Dad!) and Amanda’s gimpy rocking chair. But it has enough floor space for Teddie to sprawl out when we use our computers, so that’s all that matters. The bedroom’s nice and large, with a wide closet and it’s own sink (the 0.5). Amanda decorated it in sailboat and lighthouse theme, which looks very nice. I personally got to decorate the computer room in my Alien & Star Wars theme. The living room is nice and simple, since Yoda’s cage and the entertainment center take up most of the wall space. The only major decoration we have there is a very cool dragon-head lamp that Amanda’s mom bought me for my birthday, and hangs suspended over the tv.

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So, you might ask, what’s so great about California anyway? Well, it’s plenty hot out here, which is swell. We’ve got great beaches fifteen minutes from our apartment. But I guess the most obvious reason why we moved out here is because of my job. I am a mobile game developer, which means that I write downloadable games for cell phones. I wasn’t sure it was quite what I wanted to do when I accepted the position, but it really is a lot of fun. Since the project’s smaller, each developer is usually in charge of his own game, from start to finish. I was fortunate enough to be trusted with developing a game entirely by myself from the getgo. It’s pretty challenging, since I have to learn the tools the company uses before I can even start making my game, but the people there are very helpful. I’m not allowed to say what my game actually is, but I can tell you that it’s related to a movie that is coming to theaters in the near future. I’m working closely with a couple producers from Sony, and I get to hear the inside scoop on movie production, which some of you know is another passion of mine.

The company I’m working for is Javaground USA. They have a small branch in China, and were started by two brothers from Belgium who now work in CA with us. Hence the ‘be’ in their website, www.javaground.be. Unfortunately none of their cool movie-based games are displayed on the website. But the company itself is very cool. Most of the people there haven’t been around for more than a year, and almost all of them are young. There’s one guy, Neil, who’s from the UK. He has 18 years of experience in the game industry, but he’s still cool because he has this outrageous accent. Every Wednesday our secretary goes to Costco and buys goodies to fill our refridgerator with (and not all of it’s junk either, Ma! They got grapes and trail mix for me last week!) She also gets pizza for us every Wednesday. Thursday night we all go to the Yardhouse, a bar/restaurant, and Javaground pays for our meals and drinks. Amanda likes to come and hang out too, although we told Alex (the Belgian owner guy) he’s not allowed to pay for her anymore. Also, many of the guys go surfing on the weekend. I haven’t gone yet just because of all the unpacking we’ve been doing, but it’s pretty much mandatory that I go and learn how to surf sometime soon. [I’ve gone surfing since this letter was written, hence the following picture.]
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One of the hardest parts about being out here by ourselves is finding a new church. We had such a supportive and loving church family back home (two, actually, thinking of Bellefield in Oakland), and it’s obviously impossible to replace that. However, we’ve had some great luck so far. The first church we went to, a small Methodist church five minutes from our house, was wonderful. Everyone there was incredibly friendly, and we immediately felt very welcome. The church is small, and they only have one service during the summer. I talked to the youth pastor about helping out, and he sounded interested in any help I could provide. They actually only have three or four kids a week there! One of the greatest things about this whole area, and that church in particular, is the diversity. It’s great to see so many different ethnicities all working together. The building where the Methodist church meets is also home to a Korean church, which meets a few hours after the Methodists.
Despite how wonderful that church was, Amanda and I really want to plug in where we’re most needed. So we decided to check out a number of churches before settling on one. We went to an Evangelical Free church the following week. Then this past Sunday, guess where we went? No, you can’t guess, can you? Well, for all you 40 Days of Purpose fans out there, we went to Saddleback Church! We hadn’t realized it until Amanda’s aunt Dar pointed it out, but Saddleback is only 15 minutes from us. And let me tell you, it was insane. Saddleback has twenty thousand members, with six thousand small groups. And the place you go for worship? It’s not called the church, it’s the Saddleback Campus. There’s at least two worship tents in addition to the stadium-seating ampitheater-esque sanctuary. Amanda and I went to a worship tent called Overdrive, where they had a worship band from Oregon leading worship. When it came time to hear Rick Warren’s sermon, he was telecast on a large screen for us people in the worship tents, in addition to the other smaller church buildings they have scattered about the county. After the service, we went exploring and got lost. They have a humungous children’s worship building. We saw a bunch of classrooms along the one side of the building, and those were all for just ages four and five! Inside they have an underwater-themed teaching and play area, complete with a large aquarium on the one wall. Upstairs they were giving tours of some crazy adventure Bible-teaching setup gig. Everywhere were groups taking pictures of themselves in front of different buildings, like it was the Statue of Liberty or something. All in all, an amazing experience. Not the kind of place Amanda and I would like to help out in, but it’s certainly awesome to see that many Christians gathered for worship.

Amanda’s currently looking for a position as a physician assistant. She passed her boards, so she’s now a nationally certified PA. Next she needs to get her California license. Unfortunately Seton Hill’s not on the list of approved programs yet, so she has to wait for some paperwork swapping between her school and the CA PA board. The places she’s found so far that are interested in PAs won’t interview her until she has her license, so she’s kinda in limbo right now. That’s okay, because she gets plenty of time to hang out by the pool. (Actually she’s been real busy just getting our house situated, doing all the address changes and whatnot). So we could certainly use more prayer, that Amanda’s licensing goes through and she’s able to find a place to work that helps underserved people.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot all the important contact stuff. Here’s our new address:
26035 Moulton Parkway
Apt. 104
Laguna Hills, CA 92653

House line: 949-425-8629 Jason’s cell: 412-601-2457 Amanda’s cell: 724-787-0770

E-mail: contact@macallister.org (or any other addresses you have for us, I just don’t want to put my ‘real’ accounts online for fear of spam).

The only other big thing I forgot to mention is the network of trails that run all around our apartment. A path runs a few yards from our back porch, and connects to several others. Some are dirt trails through a terrain of low bushes, while others are paved paths through woods and along the roads. Supposedly one of the paths leads right to the beach, but we still haven’t investigated that yet. Every other morning I take Teddie jogging with me along the paths, and we go past a bunch of parks and creeks. There’s even a sign on one of the paths that says “Beware of Rattlesnakes,” but we haven’t been fortunate enough to actually see any yet.

Well, if you’ve made it this far through my lenghty e-mail, that means you really were interested in what’s been going on over here. I’m sorry this had to be a generic e-mail, but there are way too many people to write individual letters to. I’d love to keep in contact with every one of you, so please write Amanda and me to let us know how your lives are going. We’ll try our best to keep up with everyone. And if you can think of anyone you think I might not have sent this to, don’t be afraid to forward it.

Last thing: if you’re ever coming to the Los Angeles area (or San Diego, for that matter), let us know! We love to have guests, and we have a mighty fine blow up mattress. First come, first serve! You can’t beat a free stay fifteen minutes from Laguna Beach! God be with you, and keep in touch!

Much Love,
Jason and Amanda MacAllister

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