That being said, I’m not that cut up with the alternative. The United States may have some of the worst options for public transport in the developed world, but it’s known as the king of road trips for a very good reason. America’s well-maintained highways and gorgeous back roads are just begging to be explored and who are we to ignore that call?
Things just got real in the AG&HT household. The Russky got his green card in the mail this weekend and things are feeling official. The fact that we’re choosing America as our home base for a decent amount of time has finally set it.
Without even realizing it, I found myself feeling upset.
There’s a tendency – especially by the well-traveled – to feel that any long stint at a home base is just part of an inconvenient holding period. It’s not surprising, particularly if you’re prone to getting lost in any travel blogger’s archives; the constant go-go-go in exotic lands is a lot to live up to, especially if you’re stuck staring out the window at your absolutely mundane yard. I admit to not only feeling upset, but also jealousy towards those with a more interesting view than the unimpressive white paneling of my next door neighbor’s home.
Although Moscow was my home for about four years, there was always a tinge of the exotic to keep me interested. Every corner turned promised another ornate Russian Orthodox church or a building older than the United States itself. I was living in a foreign land as if I had endless opportunity to get myself stuck into some new adventure. I treasured that sense of always feeling like I was traveling, even if it was just to get myself lost around a new metro station.
The weather may still be much closer to winter rather than spring, but it’s already time for new beginnings in our little house. The changes are incredibly welcome after what seems to have been an interminable weather. The weak sunlight is streaming into our thin curtains earlier and earlier, green shoots are starting to pop up in our inside garden, and best of all: there’s a new addition to the AG&HT family.
I used to be obsessed with clothes. Not that I ever dressed particularly well, but I just loved trying new things, shaking it up, and (if we’re being honest) confusing some of the less sartorially-inclined denizens of my small hometown.
Today I’m still obsessed with clothes – just in a different way.
I mean, we get snow every once and a while. But not very much. And it’s hardly ever below zero.
After we decided to move from Moscow to the States, the Russky had a lot of questions. Mostly revolving around weather. As we fell deeper and deeper into Russia’s wintery grip this year, he clung to the idea of getting out and moving on to (literally) greener pastures. When he asked how warm it would be in Virginia as we raced through the unimaginable cold of Suzdal, I was frankly a little worried he had turned Berryville into a tropical paradise. But I wasn’t that worried – there’s no way it could be that bad.
Famous last words.
Aside from having a remote idea that Malta theoretically existed somewhere near Europe, I never really had any concept of the country before my college boyfriend developed a strange obsession with it. The same boy who assured me he’d never travel to Russia with me or go backpacking in exotic places was suddenly raring to go. (Silly me realized a few years too late that his travel list and will to do pretty much anything was completely hemmed in by what would look good on a resume.)
Malta’s amazing university system was probably the main draw and, as a fellow language-learner, he was obsessed with picking up Maltese, a language I found was actually real – a gorgeous mix of Arabic, Italian, and English as far as I can work out – and not just an adjective for Malta.
Whatever that strange boy’s motivations were, it was hard to resist the allure of all the beautiful pictures flashing across his laptop. Blue seas. Elegant churches. English as an official language. A long and varied history.
I was sold.
Are you waiting for someone? After plopping myself down on a bar stool and shaking my head, the bartender made a moue of distaste with an offhand “k” and went to fill my order.
You look lonely here all by yourself, commented the man a few seats down from me a bit later. I almost didn’t hear him, so engrossed in the book I’d been reading. I’m not sure what part of the reading and cider drinking made me look so lonely – I suspect it had a bit more to do with my lone woman status and his intoxication levels rather than any pitiful vibes I had given off.
For some women the comments might have been enough to turn them off from having a drink at the bar by themselves. Not I. Maybe it’s my natural inclination to be contrary, but I enjoy a solo bar visit and I feel a little bad for those who don’t take part. Whether I’m reading, scrolling through my texts, or just staring mindlessly at myself in the bar’s mirror, I love having a few moments entirely to myself – alone but not alone among the other patrons.
When the Russky and I first arrived in Berryville before our tour de Central America, I knew there was one place I absolutely needed to take him: Jane’s Lunch. Now I may be a bit biased as I spent many weekends working there during my high school years, but I love Jane’s. Not only is it a Berryville institution, but it’s the perfect place to meet some chatty locals. (Great for gossip, job tips, and more!) Best of all? Mitzie, the current owner, is the perfect stereotype of the pleasant, friendly small-town citizen.
Jane’s Lunch was originally opened by Mitzie’s grandmother (not, confusingly, named Jane – that was for her daughter) in 1942 making Jane’s easily the oldest restaurant in Berryville. While it’s moved from place to place along our tiny main drag, Jane’s Lunch has been an institution all thanks to three generations of strong women. I mean, can you think of anything better than that?
Love is in the air here in America – or should I say, I’ve seen a lot of pushy commercials about chocolate diamonds and flower arrangements which makes me think it’s almost Valentine’s Day. The Russky and I have decided to forgo the holiday of love (again) this year since we’re broke, I don’t particularly like cut flowers or cards, and the Russky doesn’t care much about February 14th by virtue of being Russian.
Because of the repressive nature of the Soviet Union, Valentine’s Day only began to emerge as a holiday in Russia in the early 90s. Even today it’s not a huge holiday; Valentine’s Day is celebrated rather half-heartedly by young couples, mostly as another excuse to give or get a small gift. Much more popular are the holidays on February 23rd (Defender of the Fatherland Day, geared towards gifting men regardless of military service) and March 8th (International Women’s Day), both Soviet holdovers celebrated by everyone.
Saint Valentine can’t hold a candle to these uber-Soviet holidays. Thanks to that, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen anyone over 30 celebrate the holiday – it’s really enjoyed by those young enough to have grown up in the internet age and find it fun to emulate western trends. Plus, as a culture who is really into giving flowers to women at every turn, the dozen red roses gift loses some of the shine that the offering might have for Americans.