Making the Desert Bloom

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 02 2012

Living in Las Vegas

While this blog is mostly focused on what happens in my classroom, I also happen to live in one the strangest cities in the world. Living in a city like Las Vegas has weird effects on my classroom and my life that I believe are worth sharing. (By the way, I happen to writing today in Palo Alto, which gives me a little distance from the craziness that is life in Vegas).

1. Air Conditioning- Las Vegas can’t survive without air conditioning in the summertime since it’s simply too hot in the desert. However, not all of my students have/use air conditioning at home since it’s expensive (especially if you live higher than the ground floor). Therefore, my students are used to having homes where it’s 80 to 85 degrees or warmer. When they get to their 70 degree classroom, they are freezing. It may be 100 or 105 outside, but they are wearing 3 layers in my class. Technically, I am not supposed to let my kids wear jackets indoors, but if they need them, then I am going to cave in since I don’t want them to freeze to death in what is a normal temperature to me. Also, I don’t control my room temperature and no one else wants to change the room temperature.

2. Gas- It’s so hot in Vegas that gas actually evaporates from my car from the beginning to the end of the school day. On average, I get 30 miles less out of a tank here than I would elsewhere due to the excessive heat. However, gas is cheaper in Vegas than most other places in the country.

3. Making Left Turns & U-Turns- Vegas has very wide streets and long traffic lights. Therefore, it becomes very difficult to make left turns in the city since you often have to wait a couple minutes before making one. As a result, I plan my commute to school around this fact. I commute on local roads in the morning and the freeway in the afternoon to reduce my amount of left turns and u-turns. Also, I get angry when only 2 of the 3 lanes on a given road are open. Even though 2 lanes are usually enough, you don’t want to give up extra lanes once you have them.

4. Trees- I really miss real trees. Yes, there are green trees in Vegas, but there are no forests like I am used to or even shady streets. While you may not see the desert sand every second, the lack of non-palm trees reminds you constantly that you are in the desert. Mt. Charleston and its forests are only a 35 minute drive from my apartment, which makes up for some of this unfortunate reality.

5. Food- Vegas is a surprisingly good dining city even off the Strip. Despite having practically no local produce, this city manages to produce solid food. It’s a bit on the pricey side (due to shipping costs), but I eat awfully well in this city.

6. Background- Most people don’t think of Vegas as a mountainous city. However, the valley is surrounded by impressive mountains of many colors on all four sides. I can’t think of another city in the US that is surrounded by mountains on all sides like Vegas is. The beauty of the mountains brings a smile to my face each morning on my commute.

7. City- I have been calling Vegas a city, but it’s really more a collection of suburbs across a valley. Yes, there is a downtown Vegas around Fremont Street and the Strip. However, most of the people here living in sprawling suburbs. Therefore, the term valley is more appropriate than city to describe Las Vegas. Zappos is trying to change that, but a few thousand people living downtown doesn’t change the reality of two million people living across the valley.

8. Elections- As you probably know, Nevada is a swing state and it’s obvious to anyone that all of the candidates are spending a lot of money to win this state. At least Nevada has some of the best voting laws in the country. You can register to vote online and you can vote in over 50 locations across Vegas before election day. It’s the best system I have seen so far in the country. As a teacher, I am sure that I will be voting early.

Overall, Vegas may not be my ideal city, but it’s more livable than I had expected. It still really shouldn’t exist, but the city isn’t disappearing anytime soon. Therefore, I am going to keep enjoying it while it lasts.

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Las Vegas Valley
Elementary School
Elementary Education

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