My friends in Idaho all thought I was insane when I told them about my plans to live in the Triangle for the summer–especially my plans to drive here. Most of them didn’t even know what the Triangle was, and the rest slowly became jealous because going elsewhere for the summer is akin to winning the vacation lottery.

Moscow is a small town in central Idaho nestled near the Washington border. Generally seen as an ultra-liberal oasis in a bright red state, it’s home to the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival and other cultural events when the University of Idaho is in session. But, for the most part, my summers there are incredibly boring. Oh yeah, and it’s about 3,000 miles away.

Having just completed my fourth year in college–and having subscribed to the ever-popular five-year plan–I decided to take a little summer vacation in order to keep my writing skills sharp. Working as an intern at the Independent seemed like the right step journalism-wise, and living in the Triangle would allow me to connect with relatives that had regretfully faded into the background. Years ago, my parents worked in the Triangle, and I spent many years here cheering for the Tar Heels.

Memories of the area had been floating in the mist of nostalgia in my mind for some time, and I thought tooling around for the summer would set off a few chemical reactions. It was impossible to visit my former school in Durham, Hope Valley Elementary, since a group of kids burned down the original building in 1996. My old house has magically changed color. And Franklin Street in Chapel Hill seems a bit more commercial. I remember hanging out at a movie theater somewhere along the rue de Tarheel, but that building burned as well. (I swear I had nothing to do with either pyromaniacal episode.)

One thing I’d clearly forgotten is how hot it can get here. As an Idahoan, I’d grown accustomed to a climate relatively devoid of humidity. Not to say it doesn’t get blazin’ hot in the Northwest, just not as sticky. I’d also forgotten the local fascination with NASCAR, but I quickly remedied my lack of racing paraphernalia. I’m now the proud owner of a Dale Earnhardt cooler that holds 18 cans and a mug adorned with a picturesque racing scene.

I expected to encounter racism in North Carolina; I just didn’t think it would happen in the Triangle. Of course, Idaho has its share of racists (think Aryan Nations), but it’s hard to see that sometimes in diversity-challenged Moscow.

I can honestly say I don’t miss much about summers in Idaho. Sure there’s great hiking, fishing and the like, but I never did much of that stuff. In Moscow, I’d probably be stuck at some throwaway job, instead of chasing fireflies and partaking in the occasional sandwich from Chick-fil-A (both are alarmingly absent in Idaho). Though I may not remember much about North Carolina, and some things have definitely changed, this place has always felt like home.