Hello

Alisa's Note: 
Hey everyone! Now, I know you came to wordly to read about my obnoxious opinions and maybe have a few laughs, but today I would like to show you something even more special. The Hello Series is something I wanted to do for a long time. Basically, I asked all the Ukrainian girls (my friends, not the whole diaspora) who currently live in the USA to write about their experiences and awkward situations in the States. Everyone was very excited and eager to share their stories, leading to them bailing on me at the end (no hurt feelings ladies! You are still welcome to submit your stories :)). One special lady, whose story you are about to read stuck around with me and I am so thankful. She submitted her story titled "Hello" and I was set on the name for this feature. So, without further ado, here is the story of my dear friend, the wonderful Anastasia Futrell.  

Oh! And may the holiday shopping stress not be with you. 

Love, 
Alisa

blogger, ukraine, usa, living abroad, expat, expat blog, wordly, alisa kaiser

It’s my favorite time of the year now – holiday season. Starting with Thanksgiving and all the way to Christmas everybody seems to be excited and happy. Holiday music is everywhere, people decorate their houses and buy presents, and the smell of pumpkin pies and Christmas trees is in the air. It’s also this time of the year when I become feeling nostalgic. I miss my family and friends in Ukraine; I miss the smell of snow and frost, olivye and mandarins on the table, and my favorite “Irony of Faith” movie on every channel 10 days in a row. 

When I think about my life, it feels like my reality has two sides – American and Ukrainian. And I’m somewhere in between floating and trying to find a balance. Nearly 2 years of experience abroad sometimes feels like a whole life where years of growth and maturity are squished into a smaller period . 

So I started my journey with beautiful New York City and its gigantic skyscrapers, cozy Brooklyn homes, the amazing Natural History Museum with Central Park right across from it, fabulous Broadway musicals and the super busy Time Square.  I was being told what to do and where to go; it was planned for me, so I was just following others like a baby. I loved it all; sometimes it was too much, but everything seemed to be great. After little adaptation, I finally started noticing things and asking questions: do people ever slow down or always rush?  Are all Americans so loud? Do I need to learn how to drive? Many other questions crossed my mind after I moved to a small city in Texas. That’s when my eyes opened, and I saw American reality as it is. But I was still in a “child stage” not knowing where things are, what to do and what to say. I was practically learning how to walk again by a well-known method of trial and error. I was constantly reminding myself that everything was for experience. After quite a few awkward / silly / embarrassing / cross-cultural situations I understood how to function here. I managed to stay optimistic, keep my mind open despite some conservatism around, enjoyed little things and appreciated every life lesson. 

I moved to my “teen stage” when I got my first job in the US, when I was able to develop some independence and make my own decisions. It was scary and exciting at the same time, but the fact that I was teaching immigrants from all over the world helped me to find some comfort.  We were all here learning about life from the beginning and trying to survive in a new environment. We were like a big support team laughing at our successes and crying over failures. 

As for now, I finally made it to my “adult stage” with a brand-new driving license in my wallet and more job responsibilities to fulfill. As a true Ukrainian girl, I let some of my old habits interfere a little with American reality. I cook mostly at home and try to eat healthy. I park my car far away, so I’ll be able to walk to the place for at least 5 minutes. I help local people understand where exactly my country is by saying “I’m from Eastern Europe, Ukraine”. I do what I can to become a part of this new country and not to lose myself at the same time. So far, it’s working well. In the worst-case scenario, an old Soviet movie or nice music with a glass of wine is the best therapy.

*The Hello Series features stories in their original form written by Ukrainian expats living in the USA*

Expat Homecoming


blogger, ukraine, usa, living abroad, expat, expat blog, wordly, alisa kaiser
Going back to the place where you grew up can be tough, especially if it is a small town. To the place that was so encouraging to leave (and not just for me) - a tiny town in eastern Ukraine. My journey was great. 

To start with: I began my "trip home" preparations months ago, no joke. I had to lose a few pounds ("Oh my god, I didn't even recognize you! You got so fat! Well I understand, American food and all"). I had to gear up on the beauty products ("Your face got so many pimples! What kind of stress do you go through over in that America?"). I had to reconsider my wardrobe ("What, you think you are in America? This is not an appropriate sweater for this weather! You have to go home and change") <- this comment didn't even come from my mom or grandma. At some stages of the prepping phase I just wanted to say to hell with it! and go as I am. But then I remembered a wise saying that belongs to someone: never forget the place where you came from. I put on my most slimming black coat and was on my way. 

All the comments above I personally received after my returns from the United States over the years. Some, from my professors in college even. I know. Poor me. 

I flew into this bowl of love, was smooched over by my family. I didn't have to cook or do dishes and only had to clean my tiara once a day. With my soup-obsessed family, I had to come up with the strategic plans of escaping the soupeveryday challenge. I even succeeded a couple of times. I was showered with gifts (did you see my new shoes? Check them out on my Instagram!) but still had to polish the tiara myself. 

During my vacation, I experienced the lack of hot water (try boiling water every day in order to shower. Have you seen the length of my hair? Yeah, I know); a few days and nights without any heating (look up the weather. Aha, yeah, I know); no electricity for different periods of time throughout the days (that was actually easier to live through). Some people go abroad to spend their vacation.. or go hiking, go to the ocean. I spend my vacation survival style! 

I guilted my friends into coming back to town. That's a perk of living far away: you can make attempts at people manipulation. Since all of their families stayed in this town - I can't really claim this as my accomplishment. 

Everyone was happy to see me and quick to judge as always. But I did enjoy bringing some new gossip into this town. Not without receiving a dose of new gossip in return, of course. This is where I was born and where I grew up...coming back makes me take a look at everything I accomplished since I left. And it feels great. Gotta go shine up my tiara. For the next year :)




An Expat for a Year

blogger, ukraine, usa, living abroad, expat, expat blog, wordly, alisa kaiser


My expat year is turning one! It is unreal that a year went by already... Here, I will make an attempt to look back on these 365 days, see what happened, and how my experience may be helpful to others like me. So here we go! 

In one year of being an expat in the USA I... 
1. Was jobless for the first time since I was 17 and it did not feel good. 

As someone who started doing summer jobs, big girl jobs, and internships since I started college - the first 6 months in the states were not healthy. Jobless Alisa is no fun: vulnerable, cranky, and small. To be fair: I did work online a little bit just to keep myself sane. Jobless Alisa also realized that working just a little bit (and not like a horse) is actually kind of nice. 
2. Was rejected by a bunch of people. 

Oh yes, rejection. After my long lost friend, aka, my work authorization came through - rejection arrived with it. I'm pretty tough - life's accomplishment. But man, those hurt! Especially when they (i.e. companies) invite you to three interviews and tell you how awesome you are non-stop and then you don't hear a word. You shoot them an email saying hey, you guys still deciding? That's cool... And you get a reply saying: unfortunately, we do not have any openings. WTF???
3. Learned how to drive and fear for my life. 

I always wanted to operate a vehicle. And I love it, I do, I just lack experience. If I ever drive you in my crapmobile, aka, Golden Girl: do not be distressed. I also found out where the outlet for all American anger is located and it is inside of their cars, where they can yell at you, and honk at you, and vent. Please, even if you yell to my face I still know that I am an unexperienced driver and only time can change that. Relax. 
4. Learned how to live with a boy. 

blogger, ukraine, usa, living abroad, expat, expat blog, wordly, alisa kaiser

Boys are gross. I am no better. One big happy family. 
5. Read and re-read tons of books. 

Ah, that was beautiful. Kinda miss that time of blissful nothingness... Scratch that, working is better. 
6. Found a job. 

And I love it. If you don't know, I manage a hostel downtown Nashville. I learn so much! Confrontation became my second name. You are 6 foot, rugby player, who just threw a cigarette butt next to the trash can? You bet your ass I am going to march over to you and confront you. I ain't afraid of no fugitives, bank robbers, drunk bachelors, and such. Seriously. 
7. Learned how to deal with homesickness in a healthy (ish) way. 

I'm not a kid any more but homesickness is this weird friend you get stuck with when you are an expat. My advice? Alone time. Yeah, yeah - all the magazines/articles will tell you to hang out with as many people as possible and that's true as well. But alone time is precious. Rewind. Recharge. Go on. 
8. Spend the best year of my life with the best man in the world. 

Ah, butterflies... 
9. Got a gift from the universe in a form of my best friend. 

Love you, Brittany! 
10. Found a voice. 

Thank you, my wonderful readers for sticking around, for giving me tips, for liking, commenting, for pats on the back, and high fives. You rock my world! 

Re-reading Alice in Wonderland

blogger, ukraine, usa, living abroad, expat, expat blog, wordly, alisa kaiser

I loved Alice growing up. Great story, vivid characters, colorful semantics... Her name was translated as Alisa into Ukrainian and Russian and my self-loving self enjoyed that greatly..#noshame

So it was only fair for me to get excited when I saw it in Barnes and Noble and carried it to the register. It was the time to review and revisit my childhood memories. I shouldn't have. 

The book itself, the collection of Lewis Caroll's stories is beautiful. Heavy, but beautiful. My eyesockets were pleased with the view. 

But let's jump in and talk about Alice. The childhood blissfulness of the made up world of hers faded away for me. Sure, there is a chance that my grown-up mind shrunk and is unable to preceve the wonderful worlds that jump from the pages. But on the other hand, have we met? No, don't think that's it.

Alice as a character is the most unrelatable, cocky, demanding, and annoying in the most hostile way a character can be. I'm being a little harsh.. But she is. No way around it. The wonderful string of exquisite and precise words of the great Caroll can not save the emptiness of Alice's character. 

My favorite character, the mad hatter, seemed small and irrelevant. Thinking about Johnny Depp while reading helped a lot. Despite my attempts to find a single character to relate to - I failed. I believe that the story is beautiful and unique but, unfortunately, not for a rusty grown up mind. 

All in all: I still love Alice and preserve my memory of the childhood bliss. I won't make a mistake of re-reading children's books any more... Or maybe I will. For the sake of the brain movements. 


On my nightstand: 'Bream Gives Me Hiccups' by Jesse Eisenberg

Feet and Shoes

Feet. No, I don't have any fetishes. But today I want to talk about the feet culture cause I am telling you - there is a lot to say. 

All the creeps out there - please leave now. I'm uncomfortable. ....But it is an all-inclusive culture after all and I can't discriminate and hate and blah blah blah so I guess you can stay. 'Merica.

So feet. Do you take your shoes off when you get home? Do you put your feet on the table while still wearing the shoes? Do you sit on your bed with your shoes on? If you are in my house and you are doing that - inside my head I am done with you. With a chair. On your head. And here is why: SHOES ARE DIRTY AND CARRY BACTERIAS AND NASTY AND EWWWWWWW don't. Don't. 

Inside Out


I am a pretty open person. I like people (mostly), don't ask me if I do after a 10 hour shift though. But I like to keep my life balanced and consider being a happy medium between a schizophrenic and Buddha. I thought I am pretty good at identifying my guts and feelings - but wow, America, you are giving me a run for my green card application money (it was not cheap, trust me). 

Sometimes it feels like upon birth Americans get insecurities (like the rest of the world), open-mindedness (weeeell, kind of), and opportunities (cause, American Dream! Duh). But there is something else: the ability to reach inside and grab the feeling of the moment by the guts, look at it, and perfectly describe it. People easily put into words even the simplest of feelings! Anger, joy, frustration...Even the feelings that don't really have a name - antsy feeling when someone is using a nail file next to you, or when you lock yourself out of your car - an American can write an epic novel about how that action makes him feel! Crazy, right? I'm kind of jealous. 

Tips on Being an Expat in the USA

I don't want to say "living in the USA was my dream" cause not only it makes me sound not so patriotic it also makes me sound kind of shallow. So I'll just say "I had a dream to try out living in the US and now I'm doing it!". Words, am I right? Making it sound fancy. 

But jokes aside - America is kinda cool. People are nice, the food makes you happy (and big), you can eat cuisines of the countries you've never heard of without even going there... You get denied a credit card twice, you have to wear glasses if you want to drive, you can't leave the country for quite a while at the beginning.. So in order to pass on the wisdom, here are tips on being an expat in the USA. 

1. Prepare to be challenged
The minute you land - take out your boxing gloves and put them on. You are on, world! You are so on. You will get knocked down A LOT. You will grow muscles and your butt (thanks, food). You will most likely get questioned by a few guards at the airport of your entry on stuff both appropriate and not so much (like, "no, don't go to Nashville, guys are dumb there"). Welcome to New York. 

2. Acquiring new skills will become a part of your daily routine. 
You will learn how to drive at 24. Stupidly will place "I love Ukraine" and "Ukrainian" bumper stickers on your newold car. Lately, you will realize, that those identifiers will make it so hard to run from the cops..(insert sad emojis and tears in your pumpkin spice latte). Just kidding. PSL? No way. Some things never change. 

3. You will stop noticing when people say THE Ukraine. 
Seriously. Just stop. 

4. Overtime, you will stop feeling special. 
Welcome aboard. You've made it, native :) 

Book Review: 'The Obamas' by Jodi Kantor

blogger, ukraine, usa, living abroad, expat, expat blog, wordly, alisa kaiser
Everyone should take the time to read this book. The amount of research that went into it is incredible. If I were lucky enough to meet Jodi Kantor in person, I would probably be blabbing something nerve-produced but book related, desperately trying to piece the words together. Hopefully.

I always liked the Obamas - cheering for the underdog is kinda cool. This book covers his first term as a President. I don't know if it is a complete lie or exaggeration, but it is pretty incredible and ridiculously relatable. Yeah, I can relate to the President of the United States. I know. Crazy.

Americans: the 'Trained Extroverts' of the World

It was another day at the hostel. The management team had an interview with a potential staff member later in the day. That interview got me thinking (I do that sometimes) and here it is in blog form (mandatory applause). 

Every hostel has a unique vibe but they are the same in one simple thing: you need to like people in order to work here. That is why we ask everyone we interview: do you consider yourself being an introvert or an extrovert? "I am definitely a 'trained extrovert' was one of my favorite replies to this day. 

America, let's get a cup of coffee soon and talk. Being happy is the core of a healthy awesome life, the one that every single one of us desires (hopefully). But at what point does society's peer pressure of being constantly optimistic starts creating an unhealthy teenage wish of doing the opposite? Cause I know from experience - everyone needs a day-break, week-break, or a month-break. And while agreeing with me on this issue, you, America, are still pushing an over-the-top optimism in everyone's face.

American Healthcare and the Horrors of the Kardashians


blogger, ukraine, usa, living abroad, expat, expat blog, wordly, alisa kaiser
A few weeks back I got all the insurance packages I needed: car insurance, health insurance, insurance of an empty wallet (thanks to the two above)... I also accidentally purchased the feeling of vulnerability and it won't go away. 

I knew going in: American healthcare sucks - well, nobody's perfect. One other thing I knew - if I ever get lupus there is a guarantee that American doctors will save my life (thanks, House MD). What I didn't  know is that you can get fined if you don't have insurance and living in the U.S. of A. Hold up, what? YOU want to punish ME for not caring about my health??? Or most likely, for caring about my health but having no money? America, we need to talk. 

With corruption, untrained and not caring doctors, with lines for days and bribes...forget it, Ukrainian healthcare is no good either. So what a girl to do? The truth is - I think we all neglect our health. Correction: "we all" = people on a fixed income. I have no doubt that Kim Kardashian is checking up on that baby bump daily. 

Bookish

I read. A ton. I am also opinionated about my books and sometimes harsh. Join me?

Please Don't Clean Up My Mess


Let the debates begin:

Dear Readers, 

Please help me solve this riddle of cultural differences or human ignorance by expressing your true opinions either underneath this post or on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. You can call me up as well, you know. You won't freeze to death from the sound of my voice. Lately, it feels like that's the reason texting overtook this planet. 

The situation is in no way hypothetical. All the characters are real-life people, so be nice. 

One glorious evening my significant other and I were awaiting the arrival of our two honorary guests, AKA another couple for a movie and take-out. In desperate tries to contain at least a dust of the stereotypical Ukrainian woman inside of me, I sent my hubs to the store and started cleaning the whole apartment myself. From vacuuming to dusting to putting away the drying rack with colorful underwear on it (friends' traumatization wasn't on the list of that night's events), I did it all. And cleaned the tub. And the toilet. And the top of the shelves. The only thing that was missing from this wonderful stereotypical adventure was Okean Elzy playing in the background. Oh wait. It did.

4 Simple Activities to Help You Stay Sane While You Wait for the WorkAuthorization

Everyone who had to go through immigration will tell you a sad sad story about how they had to wait N-amount of time to get all of their documents in order. And then wait some more. And more. 

I got here in November. I started working in June. To a person who began contributing to society at the age of 18 - this was a ridiculous phenomenon. Not to mention 'finding a job would be so easy cause I kick ass' thought that haunts you daily. WRONG. No one needs you. You are an immigrant, stealing American jobs. Life-sucks-and-then-you-die kinda deal. 

But if you grew up to be more-or-less insane in your optimism - you might want to consider other options. So here are 4 simple things you can do while you wait for that tiny plastic with your photo on it (and you know that any document photo of your beautiful face gets demolished by the evil bureaucratic forces):                  
1. Get Ripped: pretend that you are in prison and defending yourself is the main prerogative of your daily life. Sweat your butt off, build in the anger towards bureaucracy of the United States of America and start your work out. TIP: lay out all of the immigration documents around you so that they can see and fear how scary you are and, hopefully, resolve faster ( don't hold thy breath).

change-shy

It was time.

It was the time for me to start doing something with my life besides just living. I've missed blogging. I've missed writing. I've missed being heard.

I might be doing this for all the wrong reasons - but there is also a chance I am doing this for all the right ones. I want to tell my story. A Ukrainian expat living in Nashville. Because frankly, so far this experience had been harder than I would have ever thought  it would be.

My sentences will have grammatical mistakes that will drive my husband mad. They will also be sincere, open, and helpful.

It is not brutal to be living in this country, where people smile at you for no reason and pay for your coffee if you are change-shy. But it sure is emotionally heavy and sometimes, borderline unbearable.

My ramblings will tell stories of cultural differences, stories of growing up, stories of being in love. I hope you like it. It is ok if you don't - just don't expect me to bring you an American Souvenir or cook you Ukrainian Meal. Well, maybe a tiny souvenir and a small meal. I am a nice person, dammit.

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