26 Things of the Year 2016

We can all agree that 2016 was not the most ideal year for humanity. We are not entirely sure that is actually true but that is what we choose to believe. For me, 2016 was just another year filled with tons of ‘firsts’. As an expat integrating into a new culture I hope to never stop having new experiences ‘cause that is the beauty of living abroad (and yes, you should all do it). We recap years that have passed by looking at the pictures on our feeds, ticket stubs, emails, texts from new friends and acquaintances. Before I trail off into the land of ‘what is the meaning of life’ let's dissect 2016!

1. Started this year with a weekend spent at the cabin in the woods (obv, together with the people I love). I screamed my head off into the night to release stress. Perfect.

2. Was featured on a podcast! Although sadly World Citizen Storycast doesn’t exist anymore it was an unbelievable experience that makes you hate the recorded sound of your own voice.

3. Wordly got an upgrade! I mean, I was excited. Hope y’all were too. Now it finally doesn’t look like a basic blogger account. Now it looks like a slightly fancy blogger account.

4. Chopped my hair off and grew it back out. I mean, there is so much a girl can do.

5. Saw my friend (and was at this event for the first time) give a TEDx talk! It was unbelievable. It was also happening in one of my favorite cities in TN. And our last day Sunday brunch was unbelievable (mimosas were included. Duh).

6. Saw Adam Lambert in concert and that ended up being the best show I have ever seen. I believe in that 6 handshakes thing so if you do know Adam - please tell him he is awesome. And I love him. And he is incredible. And… I am going to go now.

7. Wrote a piece I was dying to do. Even though the conversation didn’t go as I planned it still ended up to be one of the best pieces I have written so far (in my very very humble opinion and google stats, ya know).

8. Went to Key West and fell in love (duh, sun and beach and music. Why wouldn't I?).

9. Got a job with an airline and went into training. Met some amazing people, aced all the tests and graduated.

10. Quit a job with an airline. People thought I was crazy to pass on an opportunity like this but if it doesn’t make you happy - it is not worth it. I sure miss free air travel but oh well.

11. Got my old job back and realized that if your job makes you happy you forget what ‘stress’ really means.

12. Celebrated 1 year of wordly! And wrote y’all a love letter.

13. Read a book by an author who didn’t publish anything for 11 years. Later, I had an honor of listening to him read a chapter from this book in person. Confirmed my fears that we all are messed up in our own special way.

14. Went to my first festival! VooDoo Fest in New Orleans this year was a gateway to festival life and culture for this Ukrainian. Saw so many talented folks for the first time but still kept my loyalties with The Pretty Reckless.

15. Celebrated my second year of marriage. We are now officially over with the Terrible Twos :D

16. Brought chokers back to my life. My own little special reminder of the emo kid inside.

17. Went to my first (and later second) American wedding (well, of the people I know and care about). Danced, ate delicious food, and enjoyed tasty drinks.

18. Went to a Way Late Harry Potter Playdate at the Adventure Science Center and played quidditch and stared at people’s costumes and grew hope in my heart that Harry Potter fandom will eventually safe this world.

19. Had to prep a Thanksgiving Dinner for hostel staff and guests. Had a near panic attack in the middle of the store the night before. Nope, not taking any responsibility for this one - when you ask a person who doesn’t cook to prep a giant party you kinda have to expect difficulties. Although it ended up being a hit - I am never doing this ever again. Ever.

20. Chose a top book for 2016. It is Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. Such a fantastic piece of literature. Opened up to be just ok but OH MY GOSH it gets amazingly fantastic both in plot and writing style. So incredible.

21. Moved to a house! I lived in a house before but never had my name on the lease of one. Y’all: it is awesome. We have space, space, and some more space. So next time you are in Nashville, wait for it, we have a guest room. We are SO grown up.

22. Played an escape game for the first time and got full-on addicted.

23. Taught a Russian language class and didn’t quit! Damn, that was tough.

24. Joined a gym and have been working out, like, consistently (ish). Nothing gives you a better high than a great workout. Also my trainer hates me. I mean, of course he doesn’t but he makes me work too hard when I want to be under my blanket which is all the time. So I guess he is alright.

25. Finally have a credit score! Thanks America for making me live in debt in order to prove to you that I am responsible. I would rather spend my own money than the bank’s, thanks.

26. Got paid for writing. Seriously, one of the most incredible things when your passion brings income. And all I had to do is to write about the Kardashians. Who knew?

I am a bad wife

Back when I was in school in Ukraine one of the forms of entertainment was to organize beauty pageants. Since my self-esteem was never higher than my school desk I didn’t really participate. The competitions were always for the ‘pretty girls’. I was that odd one who is not really fat but not skinny either so she can’t hang with us. Long story short I was peeling potatoes this morning and remembered how I lost the only beauty pageant I ever participated in because I didn’t know how to tie a tie. Brutal small-town Ukrainian pageants. 
I believe I was in 8th grade or so when someone decided it would be a good idea to have a pageant in my class (quick update on the Ukrainian system of education: we all go to the same class since grade 1 up until grade 11). Anyway, someone somewhere wanted to do it and since I was a girl and I was in my class I kinda had to participate. Not going to lie: I was excited. When your entertainment options are limited you kinda have to roll with the punches. I prepped, I even wrote a poem for the ‘talent’ segment and I don’t remember the poem itself but it was super sassy and I felt stellar about myself. Oh the cocky 14 year old me.

Two of the ‘rounds’ of this bizarre pageant were a) you have to show the judges how well you can tie a man’s tie (boys had to participate at this point) and b) how fast can you peel a potato. Hardcore post-soviet teenage entertainment, I tell you. As you might have guessed: I couldn’t give a crap about tying a dude’s tie and I was pretty spoiled with the love from my family which resulted in me rarely doing the cooking (or peeling for that matter).

I was pronounced ‘Miss Cuteness’ (most likely because of my sassy poem) but I took it and ran with it. To my surprise, the lack of my tie tying skills did not escape the eyes of my classmates and thus started one of the many spans of bullying I had to go through while in school. The girls started calling me белоручка which roughly translates as a softie, someone who doesn’t like to get their hands dirty, usually a royal.

I couldn’t care less. I was bullied for so many things but this one? I just shrugged it off. I don’t think I knew the word ‘feminist’ at that time but I definitely had something boiling inside of me.

So this morning when I was peeling a potato (like a boss, I might add) I thought back to that time. I thought about the things people said to me throughout my life. ‘No one will ever want to marry you’, ‘You will be a horrible wife’, ‘No men will ever love you ‘cause you can’t even get your hands dirty/you can’t even cook’, etc. You might not believe me but I am laughing right now. As much as I wanted to find true love and someone to spend the rest of my life with, I knew that there were more important things relevant to my journey.

I am a ‘bad wife’ because I don’t ‘please’ my husband with constant cooking (Andrew is way better at it than I am anyway). I am a ‘bad wife’ because I care about a passionate talk if my partner needs one right now over finishing doing dishes. I am a ‘bad wife’ because I treat my husband as a partner, as an equal, because I believe that both of us have to contribute to our success as a couple and as individuals.

Don’t let anyone tell you what you should and shouldn’t do in your relationship. It is yours and no one else’s. There are couples who eat out all the time and have someone come in and clean their place. There are couples where one of the partners chooses not to work. There are couples who are hoarders and it is none of our business what is happening behind the closed doors.

I still don’t know how to tie a tie, I admit. But I also know that I have a partner who will show me how if I ask. Isn’t it fantastic?

Yuliya Lipina for The Hello Series

Alisa's note: 

I am so excited to bring you another wonderful story! Yuliya is one of those people who are a friend of a friend, we have never met yet her thoughts and opinions resonate with me. You know how precious that is? I am so thrilled you will have a chance to read her story - a story of another wonderful Ukrainian girl living her expat life here, in the US of A. In light of recent events I thought you can all use a good story with a happy ending...

My name is Yuliya and I moved to the USA over 2 years ago to be with my loved one. In Ukraine I used to work as an English teacher and was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to teach in the States. I could not even imagine that I would be capable of doing anything else at all. My parents said little to encourage me think otherwise. My mom and dad were sure I would be “cleaning bathrooms in McDonald’s”. It’s funny to think about it now as I have just started my second job in the US (the first one was not in McDonald’s either) as an insurance analyst at an IT-company. The United States became a place where I could actually redefine myself. I know it might sound trite, but it was eye-opening for me to find out that I could actually learn a whole new profession.

Some people may argue that moving to a new place doesn’t really matter since you bring your old self with you. The new surroundings are just a background and nothing more. It is true but only to a certain extent. Moving to a new country came with a lot of changes for me though. The most important of them happened within me. There are a lot of things that I came to realize after I moved to the US. I will share some of them with you.

Being an immigrant means to live in two worlds at the same time. Ukrainian culture will always be a part of me, but at the same time I feel that certain ideas that I encountered in American culture have become a part of me in these past two years as well. For example, I never thought much about feminism and what it means until I moved to the US or the issues of racial equality. I celebrate the changes that come with learning more about the culture and the ideas I am surrounded with now and look at them as a part of ongoing personal development. However, my strong sense of belonging to a specific culture has vanished because of it as well: I am not an American in the US, but I am not really considered a 100% Ukrainian by my friends in Ukraine any more either. I am an Americanized Ukrainian in their eyes if you will. It doesn’t upset me at all though. I consider it to be a great premise for open-mindedness.

Starting anew as an adult. Looking back at my two and a half years of employment history in the US makes me feel satisfied. I think I did quite well for myself. That’s now though. Back when I just moved to Illinois I was full of frustration that I had to start over. I didn’t know what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be. I was completely unfamiliar with how hiring process worked in the US. I sent over a hundred emails with resumes and cover letters to all sort of places and have never heard back. I am lucky my husband was there for me to support me through this time and to advise me. It was the first time in my life that I had to go about finding a job without having any network of people who could give me a good recommendation. Looking for a job in the US taught me a lot about myself. First that I am much tougher than I thought I was. Second, that I actually can achieve a lot on my own without much valued “connections”. Third, it is simply awesome to acquire skills in a new field and learn a new profession. The latter is possible at any given point in your life and you should never be afraid of it. Once I even happened to be interviewing for a pyramid scheme company (as I found out later). The icing on the cake? I was supposed to go through a “gong ceremony” to be fully initiated into the team of new hires. I ran away before that.

Wanderlust lives on! I always loved traveling and exploring, but in the US this passion of mine got to a whole new level. Even though I had way more vacation time in Ukraine than I do now I somehow travel more living in the US. I have been to many wonderful places across the US: New Orleans, San Francisco and Yosemite National Park, Milwaukee and Madison. However, what completely changed for me is that I am more down to exploring the local spots. I was never much of a “local” explorer back home. Probably, that’s because I grew up in Krivoy Rog and my attempt at exploring the local quarry did not end very well. My husband and I spend a lot of time exploring Illinois and Wisconsin nature preserves, state parks and bike trails such as Matthiessen State Park, Starved Rock State Park, The Garden of the Gods, Devil’s Lake, and many more. No matter where you live you can always find fascinating places to visit. I used to disregard local exploring and I was wrong. 

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

Why Ukrainians Cheat in School

If you ask me now - cheating is bad and you should not do it. That said: I cheated a lot back in school cause cheating is kind of a part of the culture in Ukraine. Here are a few reasons why (to my mind):

1. Original thinking and creative thinking aren’t really a thing
I used to have this awesome Lit teacher who would honor all of my personal ramblings (opinions) with a positive grade. When I had to write an essay or a response to a book we read I would go all out. That included me creating a poem response (granted, I was never good with rhymes but back in the day I thought I was). Something that we read in class would ‘inspire’ me to create and I would go for it. One horrible year this teacher had to leave the country and we got another one. On the first assignment I tried my old tricks - pouring my thoughts out onto the paper and guess what? I got a C (well, the equivalent of). I tried submitting my own thoughts a couple more times (because Lit class was one of the few I actually cared about) but I kept getting unsatisfactory grades. So, for my next assignment I copied someone else’s thoughts word for word. And got an A. You can guess that starting that day and until my graduation day I was not original and indulged in plagiarism. It was so easy to do too - back in Ukraine we have these big books with essays on school’s required reading published. There are hundreds of them. You can purchase them or go to the library and check one out. The library, Carl! And of course, things got even easier when the Internet rolled around. I am still so damn sad about it.

2. Accessibility
Just like the books with all the essays you might want there are books with the answers to all school math problems, Physics, Chemistry, History, English - you name it. If your teacher is using a standardized program - all the answers will be in those books. It is hard for a 14 year old to exercise willpower and go against the system when all the resources are right in front of you.

3. Boredom
Don’t get me wrong: I think we have a great system of education. It is just a tad soviet and a tad outdated (alright, a lot outdated). For someone like me, who enjoyed Lit and languages - Physics was something out of this world. It was hard to understand and felt unnecessary (at the moment). It was easily solved by cheating off my classmates and/or the Internet. It got me a decent enough grade that allowed me not to worry about it affecting my overall GPA. Do I wish I knew more in Physics? Yes, yes I do. Unfortunately, I can’t go back the time.

4. Barter
As weird as it sounds (and jumping on what I said in point number 3), cheating is a kind of currency. I will give you my English homework to cheat off of and you will give me your math. As easy as that school years became a fruitful marketplace. Where in America it would have been solved with methodological tutoring - we found an easier way out.

5. Teamwork
I know it sounds weird but hear me out. My school did not offer sports or fancy extracurricular activities. Cheating off someone’s homework a few minutes before the class, getting that adrenaline rush of a teacher catching you in the act and getting away with it - was our kind of sport. Was it healthy? I don’t know. But it did create friendships and bonds for life (well, at least for school life).

When I first got to the US I was terrified to cheat or to even think about cheating. Numerous lectures from the people who did foreign exchange before me echoed the words ‘expulsion’ and a far worse one ‘deportation’. I didn’t cheat a single time during my studies here in the States and not that I am proud of it - I am definitely satisfied with my choices. Granted, the educational system was a bit easier here and not cheating wasn’t a big thing I had to overcome. That said: I still saw my fellow classmates cheat in the US classroom like it was no one's business. But for me the biggest obstacle in Ukraine was always the fact that my original thoughts were judged by others and most times were not accepted by my educators. In the USA I had freedom to say whatever I wanted without thinking about it twice. So please, value your freedom of expression, my friends. It comes at a high price for others.

Tell me: did you ever cheat? What was your best trick to not getting caught? I promise I won’t tell…

Undiscovered Language Aspects


Before we begin take a look at these wonderful reviewers and replies:

And now that I got your attention:

The other day I had to write a response to a not-so-flattering review. It became clear to me that I have two sides when it comes to telling people off in writing: sassy or sappy. This task got me thinking about a specific area of English language that always fascinated me: an ability to professionally tell someone they are being a jerk. I call it  ‘SuitAss’ language.

Hear me out: I deal with happy and not-so-happy people on a daily bases. I love it and hate it at the same time and have conflicting thoughts about it. All that grownup stuff. When I have to talk to someone face-to-face at least I have body language on my side. Writing is a bit different. This specific niche of English is so fragile and so precious to me since I can’t really grasp it. Is this ability something I had to be born into? Like liking sweet potatoes?

It seems like every language has one thing or another that is a bit difficult for foreigners. In Russian, you can have a full on conversation with someone that consists only of cuss words. If and when I see a foreigner having a convo that includes only profanities in Russian - I will be so so impressed. I don’t even think I can do it and I was born to speak the language. I keep thinking about what to do if I need to tell someone off in Russian. What aspect of the language do I use? Which phrases? I realized something a bit sad but completely true to the environment I grew up in: I can turn on my rudeness like no one’s business. Sometimes you have to fight if you want your spot under this burning sun (Global Warming y’all. Look it up).

But let us go back to ‘SuitAss’ language. I am at awe in front of people who can bring their SuitAss skills like a hammer. A quality (or a skill?) that lets you courteously tell the other person he is being a whining baby looks like a superpower to me. Honestly, telling a person to bug off while making him feel on top of the world has to be a superpower. It just has to be! Otherwise I don’t believe in miracles any more.  

I was trying to trace the moment American adults grasp this precious knowledge and I think I might have the answer. I believe Americans face rejection way more than a standard Ukrainian does. That being because an American is actually trying to apply to things no matter the consequence. The wisdom of the SuitAss language gets taken from the numerous rejection letters, unsatisfying phone calls, someone saying ‘no’ directly to your face. An average Ukrainian will not apply for something without being at least a little bit sure he is going to get it. That is a sad truth but it is what it is. Ukrainians like to be sure in their future, I guess.

While making attempts at SuitAss I end up either turning my Ukrainian on (let’s face it: that response will be way too harsh to read) or I get overly apologetic (which is not how I feel but what I have to accept since I am still a SuitAss trainee). Both of these options are not satisfactory to me as a part of American society and as someone who takes pride in studying languages. How do you tell people off? How do you cushion rejection? And can you help a Ukrainian out?

Not Everyone Can Be A Winner

I wanted to start by talking about this American Dream. But forget it - you get enough of this talk from the current election. But it got me thinking: the US has a very strong culture of winning. Trophies and constant races leave little space for those who feel comfortable without a pedestal. What does this culture leave those folks with?

I am probably the least competitive person you will ever meet. I don't care about Pokemon Go or any other game for that matter. I am not good at sports (granted very few opportunities were provided while I was growing up). It always feels like I had this comfy place inside of me and I like it. It resembles the rocking chair on my porch - it is there and I enjoy it. But for some reason when I got to the States many situations and people keep trying to make me feel bad for 'not wanting more'.

I understand the point of the American Dream, I do. And I do believe in it in some way. That said, I don't want to be a millionaire, I don't want to be the first woman president, I don't want to participate in the Olympics, or Eurovision for that matter. My inner peace allows me to put on my about-to-fall-apart Converse, open my door, step outside, and place my behind on my rocking chair. What do I do next you ask? Well, I enjoy. I don't rush and I don't think about money. I don't want to be the first at things. I want to sit in my rocking chair.

Of course I am not a flower child and I do not throw caution to the wind: I work, I pay my bills, and I budget. I work out (liar) but I don't want to compete. I blog but I am not trying to make my writing a business. I am not careless - I am centered. Or I want to believe I am. Is a capability of true and pure self-discovery really possible for simple humans? We might be just delirious. Everyone loves play-pretend.

Last time we visited Texas Andrew had to pack up his childhood room due to his parents’ moving. While sharing tiny pieces of memorabilia was so touching and so honest there was something that kept bugging me. Participation trophies and recognition ribbons were the things that got me thinking (just to clarify: my husband has a lot of 1st place ribbons and trophies as well. And no, he didn't make me write this, he is just a badass like that). Not everyone can be a winner. Not everyone will be a loser. So why is it so important to get something out of a race, a competition, or whathaveyou? Why is it so important to be recognized for ... what exactly? For taking your time? 'Cause of course an 11 year old has so much on his social calendar . The part of 'having fun' and 'enjoying yourself' got mixed up with 'recognition trophies'. And unfortunately, the trophies won. In this scenario we didn't just lose 'fun' - we lost ourselves. I am making attempts at finding me. Do you want me to feel bad about it?

This world is so fast-paced, especially in such a developed country like the US. Compared to my family's childhood stories I have no right to complain, but for the sake of this post I will a little. Growing up in Ukraine, when I needed a new shirt I had two options: black or white. And with a choice of those options came a recognition that half of my class will be wearing the same shirt. In the US you walk into a department store and how many options do you see? 100? 150? Give that shirt a quick Etsy search and you got 100 more. You end up taking 3 hours from your day to figure one which shirt will be the best for you. There goes your time in a rocking chair, your ‘me’ time, your precious minutes of discovering your place in this Universe. Or you know, an extra episode of Stranger Things.

Participation trophies do make one feel included, but isn't it better just to feel loved?

Americans vs. Ukrainians: Adulting

I joke around saying that I treasure my 15 year old emo kid inside and feed her Green Day and Thirty Seconds to Mars regularly. I also talk how my planner is bombarded with stickers here, giving you a chance to realize that in my eyes age doesn't really represent a thing. Who knows when this whole 'adulting' thing actually happens. There are days I feel like it hasn't arrived yet and days when I feel 100 years old. Since it is clearly bothering me - let's talk about it. 

When I walked into my West Orange High School back in Florida many emotions rolled over me: homesickness, confusion, and self-doubt along with confidence and fear. There was one thing that got my attention and was a little hard to shake off: teenagers (my age and older) had backpacks with cartoon characters on them. Being influenced by romantic comedies and American sitcoms my made-up stereotype of boys and girls dating by being rebellious and free was overwritten by some girl's Dora the Explorer backpack in my face. That didn't add up! My Ukrainian peers were trying so hard to 'hide' their childhoodness (like an unwanted pimple) by wearing their mother's heels, picking up clothes that made them look older, putting on makeup to hide that wrinkle-less skin while hugging their teddy bear before bed cause they couldn't fall asleep without it. In the US girls showed up with their 'childhood' attributes for everyone to see. You can understand that my mind was blown just a tiny bit. 

When one is stuck in the middle of two cultures it sometimes gets difficult to differentiate and define what is actually right for you. It seems that in America parents help their kids pack up their lives and send them off to college so suddenly. American youth has to go from colorful Simba socks to dorm life with a roommate they have never seen before, underage drinking, rowdy neighbors, and 'you can't talk your way out of it' papers. According to collegeatlas.org, "70% of Americans will study at a 4-year college, but less than 2/3 will graduate." LESS THAN 2/3! In my humble (but come on, we all think we are special) opinion: is it in the US culture to baby children until a certain point and then cut the metaphorical umbilical cord fast and without looking back? Is it customary to release them into the world they were not prepared for? Does it make kids tougher? It does. Those 2/3 of the 70%. Those are the champs. What about the rest though?

Do Ukrainian parents baby their kids waaaay too much and for way too long? Hell yes. Children live at home while attending university or come home every weekend (exhibit A, aka me). I am friends with people who never left their parents' side (literally. Same house since the day they arrived on this planet). When I tried googling college drop out rates in Ukraine I didn't find any. Unfortunately, there is another problem Ukrainian children are faced with: being under their parents' wing for so long their folks are usually the ones who decide what is good for them. Only a few of my Ukrainian friends are actually using their degrees in 'real life' (hm, exhibit A, aka still me).

So where is that golden grey area or the silver middle, or whathaveyou? Everyone wants his child to succeed (hopefully). It just goes to show how different we all are in our own unique way. There is no right or wrong when it comes to your life. I do sound like a leader of a cult quite often but here it is again: the beauty of being an expat is that you can zoom out and see at least two cultures, figure out what you like and don't like, and copy and paste different parts to your own story. Maybe that is the moment of adulting. At least for an immigrant.

Ukrainians and Their Personal Bubble

Coming from the country where personal space is non-existent, I learned how to live in a 1-bedroom apartment with my mom and grandma. I took it up a notch in college, where I shared a studio apartment with 3 other girls (that's a whole lot of hair, mind you). After moving to the capital, I had to share a tiny 1 bedroom apartment with a married couple (no worries, I had my own tiny room while they were occupying the living room). All in all: do not talk to me about how great you are at conflict resolution 'cause I can tell you right now you ain't seen nothing yet. 

Living with zero freedom of movement and actions can be tough. I was saving myself by taking long walks around my apartment buildings, by reading a ton, and training my body to think that I am alone. The worst part of it all - not a lot of people understood my hunger for personal space

I worked out a few little tricks when I had to deal with people breathing down my neck (literally). When you have to stand in line for something - Ukrainians are usually so close to you, you can smell what they had for lunch a few hours ago. Might also be because of the poor dental hygiene but hey, that would be a whole other post. So, here are a few tricks if you find yourself in a culture that is frivolous with their personal bubble: 

1. Wear a backpack. This will make the person behind you to be at least one step apart. The tiny problem with this hack is that you might get your stuff stolen from your backpack.. but hey, at least you can breathe and feel free!

2. Talking loudly on the phone will not do the trick - not in Eastern Europe at least. So, you can either make yourself cough (painful, I know) or you can pretend you are a metronome and shift your weight front to back, thus clearing a bit of a space for yourself.  

3. You can take a step to the side and break the line yet still save your spot. Be mature about it. I rarely was. 

I moved to the States and everything changed. I have the space I need for just simply staying sane. I cherish my bubble. My husband suggested we look into a Tiny House movement. Guess what I said to that? 
*I wrote this a few months ago for one of the bigger blogs out there. The admins decided to go with something different that time but I still wanted to share this quick read with the world. Hope you enjoyed it!* 

t-shit: Passive Juice Motel

A love letter to YOU

Believe it or not this tiny blog has been around for 1 year now. It is funny how a bunch of words written together can exist in this universe and be of help to some. This is not going to be a long post with my normal jokes/tears (yeah, I know I've been brutal with both) but more of a year-in-review type of thing, aka Alisa is doing something okay.

In the past 12 months there were 11,500 of you who visited wordly.us. Wow. I can't thank you enough and hope that whatever the reason for clicking the link was you found what you were looking for. About 50% of you lovelies live in the United States so thank you. I know how many choices you have and zeroing in to sneak a peek at some girl's blog deserves thanks. My 11% from Ukraine - there are far more important things you could be reading. I know. So дякую! UK, Germany, China, Japan, Canada, Netherlands: I know who you are. I can't even begin to thank you all.

Most of you jumped to wordly from Facebook. I was on the fence about getting a page for wordly on the book of faces but thank you for proving me wrong. Oddly enough, my next biggest social media platform is StumbleUpon. I guess there are more people out there who find it tough to part with the 2000s. Amen to that.

In just one year I was invited to do an interview with blogexpat.com, was a guest on a World Citizen Storycast podcast, received my first fan mail from a stranger, and tons of little notes and messages from all of you. I launched a feature where Ukrainian girls living in the US can share their stories and three amazing ladies jumped at the opportunity.

Thanks are not enough and I understand that. I shared stories people have heard 1000 times before and things not a single soul on this planet knew. Doesn't matter what it was - I was given YOUR support in return. I love you. I am humbled. And here is to many more shared love!


#IamNotAfraidToSayIt: Ukrainians share their stories of harassment

expat expatblog
Ukrainian Facebook is blowing up with terrifying stories. Let me start by saying: I am so proud. Personal stories are excruciatingly hard to share especially the ones about harassment. As I read posts from my friends, colleagues, former students, my blood turns cold. It feels like the heart stops beating because I am one of them and because I am with them.

Hundreds of thousands of emotional and physical harassment stories are being shared. The hardest thing is always to speak up. Only a few know stories I am about to share. My family is not one of them. 

I was a kid. Don’t know exactly how old I was 12, 11 it doesn’t really matter. At some point I blocked off so many parts of my childhood and adolescence – I stopped counting. I was coming home with my friend. I was thrown to the snow by two guys who lived in my neighborhood. They imitated a sexual act while I was unable to break free. My friend did nothing to help. After, when I ran into my apartment building and cried my eyes out the only thing she was able to utter was “Oh stop, they must just like you.” I am neither mad nor do I hold any other emotion toward my friend. The man is always right – that is how some were raised. It didn’t feel right nor will it ever. 

I was vacationing with my friend in Crimea. It was so amazing – both of us young college students at the seaside without “adult” supervision. It was marvelous. One night we went dancing. I don’t remember if he was just working at the club or was a manager of the place- it doesn’t matter. He tagged along on a walk with us after. While my friend was chatting with someone we met that night all I wanted was to go back to the place we were staying at. He suggested he’d walk with me since it was late. At the point when I realized I couldn’t get away from his hands I panicked. The thing that saved me was a jacket he let me borrow earlier. I managed to get out of the sleeves and threw it over his head. Then I ran. I was nineteen, naïve, thought that this will be a signal enough for him to understand the message. He ran after me. I ran faster. I got into the building and I was terrified. The front desk clerk asked him if he was a guest and did not let him in. My gratitude was overflowing. Up to the point when she said “You can’t treat men like that. If you are responsible for his arousal you have to finish the job”. Oh so many wrong points were in that sentence: but I was safe. I was safe. 

Later in life I was messaging with one of my guy friends/ interests. We were quite honest with each other. He asked me why I haven’t been intimate with anyone at that point of my life and I told him my Crimea story. All I heard back was “get over it”.  

Millions are suffering from harassment every single day. There aren’t any words to say at this point  – there has to be an action. I don’t want to look in every single nook before I enter my home. I don’t want to cross the street and change my direction when I see a group of guys walking towards me. Neither do my friends and loved ones. On any continent. Take action. I know I am.
If you want to read the stories and support every single one of us follow the hashtag #IamNotAfraidToSayIt  #ЯнеБоюсьСказати.


Life-changing Events

Seventeen thousand applicants in twenty four hours. Fifteen months of waiting. Phone interview. Face-to-face interview. Five weeks of intense training. Wings.


Couldn't wait to share this you all <3

Yaryna Korshunidze for The Hello Series

Alisa's note:
We meet again. This week The Hello Series is sharing a story of Yaryna. In this age of Internet awesomeness where we share what we want and shouldn't I found it easy to look for people I don't know, aka stalk them. But let's face it: when you plug in hashtags, tag your locations, and tag people you are with - there is little place to hide. I, for one, am thankful for this. A weird (or what is weird nowadays) method of looking for someone led me to a wonderful Ukrainian girl living in Arizona and today you all will meet her. Please show some love! And get ready: I am planning something very special for you guys. 

Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed with work and driving and trying to change my life habits that I don’t really notice the palm trees around me that has always brought those childish joyful feelings of a vacation in me whenever I was traveling to some tropical country for my days off.

I was feeling sick the other day and had to drive back home to just lay in bed. The traffic wasn’t heavy, so I was not that stressed and I had the chance to look around while driving, well guess what ? - I’m missing out on so many breathtaking views!

And that’s what happened to me in Ukraine too only I knew the city because I was able to walk its streets. And that’s what frustrates me here, I don’t get to actually walk the streets, always too busy with work, too busy with home, too busy  shopping and who would walk miles to the store anyway..

But a good thing about it is that these thoughts actually persuade me to change. Change the way I look at life, work and things that surround me. If I’m “stuck” here for uncertain period of time, away from my home, friends and loved ones, then it definitely should pay off in other things.

My name is Iryna and I’ve moved to Gilbert, Arizona last December.  I mostly speak sarcasm with my friends, and that’s what I miss the most right now.. I feel like my sarcasm meter is being overfilled with “too many jokes, too many jokes” ©. I don’t have any new friends here yet. Is there such things as an old and new friend at all?  I’m originally from Youzhnoukrainsk, Mykolayv oblast of Ukraine. I lived in Kyiv (that has become my home sweet home) for the past 10 years and now I’m here.. I’m working at the commercial real-estate company since February, voluntarily translating a book of 600 pages about Revolution in Ukraine.. (It’s going slow, but it’s going) and basically, just trying to find myself on this new land.

All of the things above are making me start taking my way of living seriously (not that I haven’t before, but.. you know). Since I don’t have friends here, except for my mom, to keep my mind straight I’m planning to go on trips around Arizona every now and then, and hopefully, I’ll be sharing with you some of them. I also would like to share thoughts and stories that might not be typical for the US immigrant/expat..

That’s the most terrible intro I have ever written.

It’s nice to meet you all! I’m grateful for the opportunity given by Wordly.. Right about time, hon’ :)  I’ve been writing some thoughts of mine before on my personal blog, but I think as of now it looks more like my diary.  Hopefully, my inspiration will not be blown off in two weeks and this collaboration will actually grow into something interesting and useful for everyone.

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

Vsiting Key West, Florida

The island of Key West brings up a desire to say 'to hell with it' and become a beach bum. Let's face it: it is a completely unrealistic idea a good poet would call utopia. But if you close your eyes and pretend for just a second that this life is indeed possible it'll make you all warm and fuzzy inside. We all need those moments of happiness in the flesh.

After a 10-hour work day we flew out to Fort Lauderdale, FL. A three and a half hour flight was not too bad except for the excruciating pain of my ears failing to pop and it being way past my bedtime (which is 9.30p and of that I'm proud). Once the rental car was picked up we started our journey to the wonderful island of Key West on what everyone I talked to said was suppose to be 'the most beautiful drive of your life'. I bet it was! It was a little bit difficult to appreciate considering the fact of it being in the middle of the night. My dedication to my lovely driver, aka amazing husband killed my ability to sleep. Not my desire - only my ability. Our 3.30am arrival will not be featured here, don't worry. 

Key West is a tiny but oh so beautiful island. Parking is a pain in this place so most tourists rent out little scooters and bikes. And oh my gosh! Scooters are so much fun - I can't even tell you! Especially when you drive down a breathtaking coast of the Atlantic Ocean. 

The island is a little gem of the Florida state. The richest arrive and buy out the houses, jacking up the living prices through the roof. Non-voluntarily you are spending $15-17 on a plain burger while trying to convince yourself that it tastes better than the one on the mainland. Living a lifestyle you can only afford for a weekend gives you a bit of a rush mixed with the terrifying fear of your credit card bill. Key West can mix those feelings up in a drink and sell it to your for $14 a shot.

Ernest Hemingway was finding himself in Key West as well for about 11 years. He left his estate in 1939 along with a bunch of famous works of his including 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' (thank you haunted ghost tour. It was super informative). I came to know so many random things on this tour like the fact that Hemingway's favorite cat looked like a cat in a tuxedo and his name was Christopher Columbus. The cat still haunts the guest house of the Hemingway estate (now a museum). 

Ah, Key West. The island of beauty, tiny population, and street chickens. I would probably move in a heartbeat (assuming I become filthy rich in the next heartbeat). There is only one thing that will hold my move back and that is a black mustang driving along Duval street blasting Russian rap. Yep, you read that correctly. Like any other tourist town this place is filled with people from all over the world. And while I embrace diversity and charge myself from it - being a part of a big post-soviet gang is not something I consider. I like that whenever I hear Ukrainian or Russian or even Polish in Nashville - I get very excited and nervous. It might be because my ego loves the uniqueness of it all or just because I don't want to be present and not participate, you know what I mean? If I chose to integrate - I have to do it fully.

I appreciate New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Key West too. As popular as those places are I don't think I would be ok with living in one of these. Once an expat you want to feel more like red, white, and blue and less like white-red (that's Poland) or blue-yellow-red (that's Moldova. Code of Arms is on it too. But you get my point). I want to save eating soup and bad mouthing passersby for when I am visiting home. Some things just have to stay there.

If you are planning on visiting Key West - do it. Account for all of your expenses and go because it is gorgeous and there is something about being on an island that makes you feel like 'Lost' and 'Gossip Girl' at the same time: tragic, messed up, but oh-so-pleasant to look at.

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