2014 Wrap Up

Hi cutie,

I’ll see you soon in Sedona (where we should explore the local fare) but I thought that I should wrap up 2014 with a blog post.

It’s crazy how much can happen in a year. We visited Jens in Berlin, I moved into a new home, I lost a best friend (Vered), I got promoted.

When I think of the highs of 2014, I think of my birthday. I organized a picnic in Kalorama Park. As the sun was setting my friends started to arrive- Evan, Michael, who was in charge of the grill, Diana, Alex, Jess, Charlotte, Alison, Victoria, John, Julia. We stayed there until 2 am, drinking, eating, smoking, slacklining, playing frisbee. At the end of the night, it was me, Marina, Michael, and Julia. We sat around the picnic table and talked about being 24 and what we wanted to work on in the coming year. It was the perfect ending to a really beautiful day. At 2 am, the night is beginning to really settle in. Music from Adams Morgan begins to fade, people walking home from clubs become sparser, homeless people burrow into their blankets behind trees in the park, and the four of us sat at the picnic table and downed the last drinks. I love that the 3 people I held closest to me were there till the end. It made me feel that they, too, held me close. Julia- my fun soulmate, Marina, my go-to-girl, and Michael. I remember talking about decisiveness. In my 24th year, I wanted to become more decisive.

What a year. Now I live in an adorable house on Capitol Hill with Charlotte and Martin. We have a quiet neighborhood and a backyard. I have friends down the street and am secluded from the social climbing social anxiety ridden center of DC. I love it. This home makes me feel secure and calm. It’s crazy how where you live affects your psyche so much.

2015 brings my 25th year on earth. Freshman year of college I put sticky-notes on my desk of what I wanted to be: elegant, gracious. Those were the two I remember. I still want to be that. I want to treat the earth and others with maturity and generosity. Most of all, probably, I want to be responsible. I want to clean up, be organized, and respect myself, others, and my future.

And I don’t want to lose sight of my dreams. I want to work towards my dreams: starting some sort of small business, having a commune, and living abroad and becoming fluent in another language. I want to work unfailingly towards them.

And I want to overcome my fears by trying new things and testing myself. I want to push myself further than I ever thought I could go. I know I have a propensity towards overbooking myself and jumping from one thing to the next. I want to master things and not waste my time. We only have so much of it on this place.

Chutzpah

Shalom, sis!

Well the baton’s been passed and I’m pretty slow on the uptake but now that I’m back on the other side of the planet from you, I guess it’s about time I’ve logged another post!

Thinking back to your last post about itchy feet I can say for sure that I’ve been doing some major travel dreaming and scheming as of late. I’m thinking about culinary exploration of new foods and places – and wondering how I can incorporate all my favorite things into one big amazing adventure. Here’s the idea: you + brother + his girl + me + my boy on an action-packed, taste-bud enthralling, sight-filled bike adventure across Israel. The more I think about hummus and challah and shakshuka the more I want to visit this strange homeland. I think it’s a good place to start, ye?? One step at a time, and the whole world will be uncovered by your exploratory exertions.

I feel your anxiety about trying to fit it all in. I feel like no matter how much I read, I have read nothing, how much I travel, I have been nowhere, and how much I try new things, there is so much more to experience. But on the flip side, as I now am entering my third consecutive year living in this “northern venice”, I am grateful that I am beginning to really know this place. To understand it, to breathe in rhythm with it, and to really feel content. I realized not long ago that as much as new places are exciting to take in, sometimes there is such great joy in really knowing a place – the nooks and crannies, your favorite hangout, to wander and never be lost. I recall these feelings about places that I know so well that I’m almost afraid that I’ll forget – tracing maps in my mind of the floors and walls in our Guilford house, the trails to the deep hole and Huckleberry point, the outline of the mountains from the balcony at Elka… places that mindlessly my eyes have passed over countless times that now I grasp to hold onto because some are gone forever and others are simply too far away.

In the end I guess it’s a balance between taking things in – really and deeply – and expanding your horizons. I want to allow the taste to unfold itself in my mouth; I want to digest and to savor the flavors, so that the memories will linger on. La vie quotidienne, c’est la plus interessante pour moi.

Speaking of France, I totally support your aspiration for a cottage in southern France. Just gotta fall in love with a Frenchie, easy as un-deux-trois. (Remember Rose used to love that show — I think it was about dancers?)

In the meantime I’ll be here, exploring the food blogs of the internet and unloading the contents of my kitchen, listening to stories from other lands, and transporting myself far far away without even having to put on clothes.hood

Shalom!

 

Why is the World So Big?

Hi,

So after our conversation in Berlin, I’m just going to write this and forget about carefully composing it for perfection.

Berlin was so wonderful. I loved seeing you so much. It’s easy to get into our rhythm of work and forget that there is a world out there. You get so wrapped up in this fast-paced, no thinking, constantly moving life that it’s hard to jostle yourself out of your routine. Whenever I lift my head up, though, I see so much more than I ever thought I would.

I have slight anxiety now, because I realize that there are so many places to see in the world, and our lives are so short.  There’s so much to learn, so much to do, and so many people to meet. Between our daily life and routines, we’ll never be able to even scratch the surface. I have a lot of thoughts about how short our life is and how much I want to accomplish and how I’ll never be able to do it all. Actually, this is 90% of what I think about. And I want to cry every time I think about it. I see so many adults around me that I don’t want to be like. I don’t want to be jaded. I don’t want to be broken. I don’t want to be stagnant or regretful. And each time I get a taste of something new, I want to follow it. After “living” in London, I want to live there, now after visiting Berlin, I want to live there, I want to become fluent in French and be an expert in my field. I want to marry someone with a foreign touch and adopt children from around the world. I want to have a summer house on the Mediterranean. As this rat race life goes on, I realize that another week has passed, and then another month, and another year, and I still haven’t accomplished all I want to. It’s like my to-do list at work. At the end of each day I look at it and think, “that’s all I’ve done?”

I talked to Matthew yesterday, and he said, “you don’t realize how much you are learning and growing each day, until you look back after a while.” And I guess without “trying,” I’ve done pretty well. I have a job I love that does “good.” Actually, it really helps people and supports them at an extremely vulnerable time, and gives them hope. I really believe in the mission of my work. I love it.

But, there’s so much more to do and see. I think I might have to just get up and take a leap, kind of what you did, and just see where I land. I just guess we lived forever and the world wasn’t so big.

I love you.

CP

Smiles and Soviet Symbols

Hi C!

First of all, the coffee table looks good!! And I want one of those little pups. I can’t wait to one day have my own little dog to play with and take for walks. A boyfriend is good… but they have their own agendas and can’t snuggle allll the time.

People in Russia rarely interact with strangers in public transit. In all of my time living in Russia, the only times that people have spoken to me in transportation have been when they heard me speaking English, and once in Naberezhnye Chenly when a boy started talking to me on the street and then followed me onto a bus with hopes that I’d give him my number. (I didn’t. However I did humor him enough to have a conversation.) But other than that, people tend to mind their own business, even when the situation is such that you might expect people to share words.

However, recently on my ride home from work, I was sitting on a trolleybus (electrically powered bus) in a seating area where there are four seats: two facing two. I sat quietly, reading (in Russian!) Mashenka, by Nabokov, while two babushki, one next to me and the other kitty-corner, sat chatting.

“Oh! They’ve finally restored that building. Thank God!”

“Yes, it’s been out of scaffolding for quite some time now. It looks so beautiful!”

“Yes, the city is looking nice these days.”

Then they noticed a small red star I had pinned to my lapel. This isn’t just any star, but an ‘order of merit’ that was a symbol during the Soviet times. There were different variations of these pins over the years; mine is just a red star with the sickle and hammer symbol in gold in the center. One of the women asked the other if she had received an order and what it had looked like.

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I glanced up from my book, as it had become apparent to me that they were referencing my order, and I caught the eye of the woman kitty-corner from me. I smiled, which in Russia means either “I know you” or “I’m a fool” and the woman asked me where I had gotten the symbol. I told them that I had gotten it at the market simply because I had liked it, and they were happy to hear this. (I think they were quite surprised that I had an accent – they had probably assumed I was Russian). They then started to talk about how the youth these days don’t know about the Soviet history, and how they miss things from the Soviet times. The man sitting across from me joined in, talking about the orders, about this post-Soviet time and troubles, and about the good things that came from the Soviet Union.

It was such a special moment, to become welcomed into the world of these people. Shortly after all of us smiled and parted ways, a little more upbeat after having shared a positive experience with strangers. Even though the past decade has brought so much economic stability, the restoration of beautiful old buildings, and access to the world-at-large, there are still moments of nostalgia throughout Russia for the communist times, and the remnants of the Soviet period are still quite clear. Nothing is all bad or all good.

Speaking of smiles and in response to your thoughts on insincerity, I agree that Americans can be insincere – and that our currency of the smile is taken for granted. If someone isn’t smiling, this automatically sparks those around to believe that something is wrong, or that this is a troubled person. The expectation to be outwardly cheerful is sometimes a good thing, because it often allows people to connect on a personal level, smile to smile, but at the same time, it is exhausting. And are all these smiles really sincere? No, though we’d all like to believe they are. These smiles don’t mean Americans are genuinely happy all the time. Even though Americans (according to some statistics) tend to be happier than others, I don’t think that smiles exhibit true happiness, nor do they necessarily trigger others to be ‘happy.’ However, many of my Russian acquaintances here who have traveled abroad often lament the lack of smiling faces here. So maybe, as insincere as these smiles may be, it’s more pleasant to see a sea of smiling faces surrounding you as you move through life, then a sea of detached and neutral expressions.

I can say that from time to time I smile at strangers here, and they usually are either surprised, scared, or confused. But things daily make me chuckle to myself – whether it be a well-dressed businessman gleefully sliding across a patch of ice or small children singing on the metro – and I can’t help but catch another person’s eye and relish in the moment together, whether or not they are on the same page as I am.  All I know is that from time to time I find myself simply smiling, and whether or not it’s a reflection of my spirits, I can’t really say, but I’d like to think that it is.

Love you! Smiling to you now 🙂

See you soon,

B

pianos and privilege

C!

I have memories of waiting for you while you were at your piano lesson at Lena’s house. I only ever went to/in the front door every so often at the end of your lesson to gather you. I remember she had such a light, lovely house. During your lesson, I often used to walk along Short Beach, or do my homework, or something while you were there. Mom was somewhere nearby, I guess, but I don’t really remember. I suppose I have vague memories of collecting shells or building sandcastles.

I wonder – did you often have to wait alone (or not) for me as I was engaged in one of my lessons? In so may ways I can’t imagine being the mother of three in such a time and place as where we grew up, but as my friend Yulia said, “Kids grow everywhere.” And time changes. And I’m just a privileged white kid. (But I think my standards aren’t that high? – certainly not compared to most (new) Russian girls I meet…)

(Max just made delicious creamy mushroom puree soup. Yummmm.)

It’s funny being in your 20’s. College is such a bizarre thing, (and I can’t imagine what boarding school was like) and then your’re thrown into the real world and everything shifts. You’re ‘expected’ to do so many things – by your job, family, friends, world around you. Some people get caught up in the stream and move along quickly; others jumble from one rock just to get caught up against the next. There are so many different variants, none necessary right or best. And “kids grow up everywhere,” right? Who are we to say that our summers of Garrison/Last Chance Cheese candies or Twilight Day/Silver Lake summer camp were “better” than those of others? Or that our no-TV, healthy and diverse meals, and outdoorsy lifestyle were worse? Everyone has their own experiences and own stories, but if we can’t try to be empathetic or at least be patient with one another, we can never understand and certainly never learn. Bits and pieces of the human experience turn out to be “right” and “good”, but no one ever can be made only of the ‘good stuff.’ We can learn and adapt and/or embrace tradition for tradition’s sake.

I personally can’t believe how much I’ve changed and the world around me has shaped me over the course of my years. I remember a few excerpts from my life and am enthralled each time a past me makes an appearance. I am so fortunate and grateful for the chances to have exposure to so many different lifestyles and cultures that have influenced my opinions and the way I live. I guess I have recently reclaimed CT as where I’m “from”, but usually it’s simply “the North-East” of the US. Not New England, not New York. Both, but specifically upstate NY and south central CT. Despite living across the globe in places far and wide, my heart still beats for these places. Although, simultaneously, I can’t divorce myself from the allure becoming intimate with different lifestyles and customs. There are bits I like to incorporate into my own way of living, as I sort out how to live right and well in this world.

Loving you!

B