07 November 2014

Across the U.S., Day 32 - Houston (TX)

Houston pretty much represents what a German small town-girl like me imagines when thinking about a typical North American city: skyscrapers, large metropolitan area, multi-laned roads and a lot of people. According to the 2012 U.S. census, Houston is the largest city in Texas, with a population of 2.16 million and ranks #4 in the nation. It was founded in 1836 and named after General Sam Houston, who had defeated the Mexicans at nearby San Jacinto.

Nowadays, Houston is well known for its refining and petrochemical industries, has a large theater and museum district and many research institutions.

I strolled a bit through the skyscraper district, where buildings from long ago look like they are getting swallowed by the tall complexes around them.

Houston, we have a problem? On January 2013, 6,359 persons were counted as homeless in Houston/Harris County. These represent about 1% of the 610,042 homeless, counted nationwide in the same year. Five percent of all homeless people in 2013 lived in Texas, while California had a rate of 22% (136,826 people). Compared to 2012, the numbers had overall decreased in Texas by 4,437 people, but increased in California by 5,928.

He has been homeless for about 2 years. Now with the help of his church, he is working on collecting all of the required paperwork to get his ID - and normal life - back.

To take good pictures of people is really tricky. I tried some more and still have a lot to learn.

Butterflies are not much easier to capture, but this Monarch (BTW: Texas' State Insect) did me a favor and fed a long time on the same patch of Tagetes.

From the range of Houston's museums, I picked the Health Museum. Of course! :-) The "Amazing Body Pavilion" nicely explains in English and Spanish the different organs and their functions. While I was there, multiple classes of Spanish speaking teens explored the exhibition. There are also some fun experiments the visitors can take. E.g., one gets their picture taken and can explore how one would look with a different ethnicity. Or how long are you statistically likely to live, based on specific information entered. As a non-smoking, seat belt-wearing, regularly-exercising, teeth-flossing female with at least three good friends in my life (!), my number of years was 97. I shed two years, because I don't get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. ...

Before returning to the hotel, I got one more mission accomplished:

No, no. This mug is NOT for me, but for your girlfriends, Sonja!

Not that I find it necessarily desirable to reach an age of 97, but at least I want to do my best to remain healthy while getting older. This yummy salad was exactly what I needed to close out the day.

Grilled shrimps salad. From Swampy's Restaurant.

More to come.


  1. Houston, used for changing planes mostly, has the most boring airport in the US, no, make that the world.

    I wonder how census counts homeless people... no address, and they tend to move around. In the Black Forest I have yet to see my first homeless person. They don't seem to exist, or there might be enough shelters.

    THANK YOU for the mug. I am certain the girls will appreciate it.

    1. The census counts of homeless is based on two numbers: the sheltered and the unsheltered ones. The first is the easier #: those who stayed over night in a shelter (such as safe havens, etc.). It's a 1-night count, usually done the last week of Jan each year. For the unsheltered, they literally go out on that same day to areas where they expect homeless to stay over night (parks, bus/train stations, under bridges, abandoned houses etc.) and count. The number is certainly no all inclusive and for example does not capture those who are actually homeless, but found temporary shelter with friends or family. But it gives a very good idea of who is out there and how the situation develops over time. Homeless in Germany? There is an estimate of about 284,000 people in 2012, which seems a lot, for Germany and compared to the U.S. How many in the Black Forest? Would need to research by region.

      Re the mug: My pleasure to do mug hunting. ;-) I would have loved to pick one up in Charleston as well, but they don't have one for this city. Only in Charlotte, which I did not find appealing enough to include on my list of place to see. ... Nor does Savannah have one!