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. 


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 :)

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