Tuesday, October 29, 2013

my very late start to life in the LA area

So, I promised my former students that I would write about life in the LA area, and I am ashamed to say that I have yet to do so despite the fact that I have lived here for almost 3 months. I am also not changing the name of my blog, even though it is no longer "the Adventures of a Tahoe Native in the Motherland." Or is it? Well, it's certainly not De Karelia (that is about Karelia or even the non-Karelia parts of Russia), and while normally Motherland applies to Russia, one might say that I am still in the Motherland because it is MY motherland, and actually with a stronger double entendre, it's actually my mother's land. Yes, that is right, I am living in the house that my mother grew up in. My grandparents moved into this house in 1957 when my mother was 8 years old and while the town has changed a lot (seriously too much to describe for my purpose here, but it's almost the change of a small village to a full suburban community, from small roads to highways, and from a small market to large chain grocery stores. Oh, and the addition of lots of schools, churches, shops, etc), so despite the changes over 56 years, this is the land that my mother grew up in. Oh, and I'm keeping tahodoga because that is also still appropriate.

That said, I am writing about 3 months worth of material into one blog post. That is not to say that this will be the end of my writing of my starting time here, since I may return to some subjects and events, but I will cover the basics in this single post.

When we first arrived, Daria and I still only had the things we brought from Russia, with non of our belongings that we had left behind and we had to buy at least basic provisions for the animals and ourselves, but fortunately we moved into my grandma's house. Daria left immediately after arriving here (2 days) to go to Hawaii for a psychology conference, and I was left to try and settle in, set up internet (because that had never been installed here), and unpack. In a similar situation to Russia, we had to preserve the way of some things, but were allowed to change some other things to fit our needs. We are living in one room, one that one belonged to 2 of my uncles when they grew up here, but have free roaming over the house. I have actually taken pictures (about 6 weeks ago) specifically for a blog post, but have not done it yet, so you'll all see the house later when I do a picture posting.

We also had to buy a car, so during Daria's time in Hawaii I searched for a car and when she returned we test-drove a couple models and bought ourselves a Toyota Prius C. 2 days after we bought the car we drove up to my parents' house in Minden, Nevada (about 8 hours away, 430 miles or 692 kilometers). While there we attended a friend's wedding, and then unpacked a lot of things to decide what we would need, re-pack the rest to store for another year, and then we packed both my parents' car and our car and the 4 of us drove back to Agoura Hills, CA (where we live, you can look it up on maps.google.com but it won't let me link to it), near Los Angeles. My parents stayed a few days to help clean parts of the house and help us unpack our things.

Daria started her internship in the middle of August (I don't remember the date at the moment), while I still continue to look for full-time employment. I do have a job teaching speech and debate to middle schoolers for a couple hours a week, but I have not started it yet, nor is it very much. I am also trying to substitute teach in the schools as I seek other opportunities, but there are lots of frustrations and things that are in my way of getting a job that I do not feel I want to discuss in this post. Perhaps I will in another, or perhaps I won't. I don't know.

Anyway, Daria drives to central LA for work about 90 minutes each way, mostly in traffic, and it's in a car. This is why good public transportation is nice. I could read and walk and do things while I commuted to work (and my commute in SPB was only 40-45 minutes, but still). Daria listens to the radio and sometimes audio books, but it's still not the same.

When I am not spending my time trying to find a job or do job-related things, I help out my grandmother, who is 87 years old, by doing work in the yard (trimming trees, mowing the lawn, watering the grass, raking up leaves, etc), sometimes running errands for her to the post office or the grocery store, sometimes driving her to play cards with other retired women in the community (or to join some seniors on a bus trip for to Las Vegas -3 days- about a month ago), cooking some of the food, and other various activities. And sometimes I just sit and talk with her about things in the news, her life, or some philosophical questions.

I will say that at the beginning she and I actually had quite a few arguments. It wasn't always a nice, rosy day (for you Russians rosy in this sense means 'good;' we also use 'peachy'). At the beginning we argued at least 5 times a week about trivial things, such as: I don't know how to do dishes (even though I've washed dishes since I was 8 or 9, just not the manner that she likes them done), or I'm moving books/boxes and she wants them in a certain place, or I can't put food in the fridge correctly. For the most part the arguments were us adjusting to a new space and her adjusting to having people in the house again (it has been 6 years since my grandpa died, and even then it was still done according to her way for many decades before that). A big argument also came when we tried to get the internet installed, which we did, but it was difficult because my grandmother does not like technology. She has never had a TV. But now, we argue very rarely as we've all gotten more used to each other, and in fact we often have quite pleasant conversations about a variety of topics.

As for things that we've done, well, Daria and I went to the beach quite a bit on the weekends when it was still warm out (I think 7 or 8 weekends, but I don't honestly remember). And we did normal beachy things like sunbathe, swim, bodyboard, and play common SoCal beach sports like one with a ball that I do not know the name, but we each have a paddle and we hit a ball back and forth. And honestly it's still fairly warm, certainly compared to Russia, but not always beach weather (although I think yesterday was). We also went to see a concert of some favorite punk bands like The Offspring, Bad Religion, Pennywise, and a few others (Sergei, if you read this, I'm still sad that I did not see Offspring with you in SPB, but I saw them and I thought of you). We have gone to the boardwalk in Santa Monica and rode a Ferris Wheel (my Tuesday/Thursday Int and then Upper Int class better remember what I told them about the Ferris Wheel on this one), the LA County Fair where we saw and petted lots of animals like cows, sheep, goats, pigs (and a piglet race which was both fun and extremely cute) and Daria milked a goat. My best friend Greg came down from Davis, CA in August and he and I went beer tasting at one of our favorite breweries and then went to a concert for Queens of the Stone Age. About 8 days ago, Daria and I met with some friends for Oktoberfest and enjoyed some wonderful German food and beer, and of course we enjoyed spending time with old friends. I think that covers the big events. And I will admit that on most Saturdays I watch college football, especially the University of Michigan (my alma mater) games, one of which we also met up with some old friends (high school for Daria and college for me). The last big event was about 3 weeks ago, where I went back up to my parents for a Church Convention (as I am active in the Episcopal Church - the American branch of the Church of England) in Nevada.

Speaking of Church things, I have also been participating in a 6 week program on Tuesday evenings (3 done, 3 more) for young adults in the Church that has been fantastic. And I started a program at my local church called Theology on Tap (I stole the name from others) where we meet once a month in a bar and discuss theological issues. Our first meeting was this past Wednesday and it was a lot of fun (but hey, my former students should know that I like to have good discussions in a bar). 

As to some emotional things about being here, well I only have a few to touch on. Overall I truly and honestly miss Russia. I miss the people, the culture, the atmosphere, and the weather. I will admit, southern California is better than I had expected, and the autumn is actually turning out ok (I fed Karma  in the middle of this post and went outside for a bit and it actually smelled like autumn which was nice), but I still actually prefer SPB to here. The beer is better here, and while expensive, the good stuff is still cheaper than there; and the Mexican food is better here (oh it is soooooooo delicious). I guess, there are just differences, and I must get used to that. And both places have their positives and their negatives. And perhaps because I had a job there, and I'm still looking for one here, that affects me. But to finish the emotions, yes, SoCal is better than I had anticipated. I do like it better than I thought, and there's lots of things to appreciate. I have done a lot of things, and can enjoy nature, go hiking, go swimming, and see old friends. But I miss SPB too. I'm torn. I will say that today I'm more on the missing Russia side too, so that might affect my post. I saw too many things over the weekend/today on facebook that made me miss Russia.

For those who do not have facebook, today is also the day that Daria successfully defended her doctoral dissertation, so thank you to those who helped with the study, and thanks to those who did not help, but are still awesome because we love you all. It's also kinda fun because 43 years ago on this day, my dad was ordained a priest (that's more for me when I re-read than for you).

Well, I think that's all for now, but now that I've broken what was holding me back from writing, I hope to write more and to write it soon. I miss you all. 

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