18 September 2014

Eating, Sleeping, Reading, Fall

I don't know if I have that much to say, but here I am.

Ben bought me these roses after a little tiff the other day. They were so long and beautiful, I hated that our only vase was small so they needed to be cut down. I remember when I was younger, my friends and I sitting around a cafeteria lunch table talking with authority the kinds of girlfriends we were and the kinds of boyfriends we wanted. 
We were no drama, one-of-the-guys, unfazed by silly holidays and annual anniversaries, cool, hip chicks, certainly not "flower girls". 

I think it takes a guy actually surprising you with flowers to determine if you are in fact, not a flower girl.

Ben and I watched this really great film the other night called The One I Love. We had a stay-in date (but, like a real one because according to Ben, all our nights after work are stay-in dates). We went to the beer shop and splurged on a bunch of high-end beers and then gave ourselves a little taste test. The movie was awesome and the expensive beers were awesome.

We're going to Brussels, Belgium in less than a month. I'm really excited. We've been debating whether or not we should take a beer tour there, but I think it would be something fun to do. We're definitely going to go to a casino one night because Ben has been bit with the poker bug and there's no gambling allowed in Russia (weird though, right?).

We've been holding poker nights with our friends every weekend and a couple weekends ago I won $120!!! I literally have never been more excited. Ben was really happy too, I think he was proud to lose to me.

Last night we watched that James Franco movie, Palo Alto which was also really good. I think I was even surprised by how well done it was. I thought there were a lot of characters that I could relate to or had known and been friends with at that age. And I liked how none of the teenagers fit into movie-boxes. Like, nobody had to come out and say that they were a virgin or that they were lonely, it was just easy to see. There weren't even any dreamy boys because, really, boys aren't that dreamy in high school. Even the artsy ones never seemed to know what to say.

It was just kind of a movie about real people, like a quick snapshot. I like films like that. The ones that remind me of things I've already felt, like an affirmation that I was there.

Also, the soundtrack is dope. 

04 September 2014

Lately, My Summer at the Dacha

Hi strangers.

It's been awhile, but the leaves are crisping and the sun is setting earlier and it's time to get back into tune with this blog.

I had an interesting summer! I know I told you all about how our friends left and I was feeling really bummed about that, but I had a pretty nice distraction right after they left. I met with a family that was looking for lessons for their daughter and they needed them to be everyday, full immersion because she was going to attend an international school in Milan and needed to be more familiar with the English language. They asked me if I would like to stay with them at their dacha (a Russian country house) Mondays through Thursdays and I accepted.

Normally I would have been pretty apprehensive about staying over at someone's house, but I wasn't getting a lot of work because all my students had gone abroad for the summer and, to be honest, I kind of needed a break from Moscow. I knew I'd miss Ben, but it was for just a short amount of time during the week and only for a month total, so I knew we'd all be fine.

And with that, I packed up my bags and travelled on a tin can train out past the city, through endless forests and fields, past villages and people bathing naked in rivers to a faraway region.
And it was awesome.

I was welcomed by open arms by her babushka and felt immediately at home. We spent our days outside, swinging on swings, catching butterflies, eating pickles, dancing to spice girls, doing "yoga" (really just her crawling all over me), talking, talking, sitting in kiddie pools and shooting each other with squirt guns, and sneaking up into my room to watch Barbie cartoons on my iPad.

I felt relaxed and rejuvenated. Where we stayed was unreasonably quiet. Not a soul was around. As the sun sat each night, with a belly full of shashlik, I ran through the empty roads, the warm sun cloaking itself around me. Ben and I played Words with Friends with each other and skyped every night, my heart filled with a whole new sense of peace. When I came back on the weekends, we spent time with our friends, drinking beers and leaning out our balconies, enjoying the warm air.

 I spent about a month with Marina and her family before it was time for her to go move to "Italian". To be honest, I was pretty sad. I had a really great time with her and I feel like spending time with her and her family taught me a lot I didn't know about Russia and Russians. Sometimes living in a big city like Moscow tricks you into thinking you know it all; you just see people the way they are in this large, unforgiving pack and you forget that they go home and completely change, just like you do.

Remember a lifetime ago when I wrote about being brave? There was a time when I felt like the very act of moving to Russia had made me brave and invincible. But I did backslide a bit. I felt exhausted by the city, I felt like I'd seen what I needed to see and I was over it. Well, I feel new and brave again. I feel--and this is going to sound super hippy dippy, but I am hippy dippy so whatever--really centered and at peace. Things aren't getting to me like they were a couple months ago. And that's a really nice feeling.

Anyway, I wanted to share some pictures of my summer at the dacha with you. These were all taken with my crappy iPhone, but I hope it gives you an idea (some of you might recognize these from my instagram account @lisahoraan).


01 September 2014

My Survival Kit

*Disclosure: I was approached by the super awesome company Man Crates a couple of weeks ago and asked to write a blog post about my top 5 must-have survival kit items. In case you've never heard of them (I actually had just a few weeks before they wrote me and was already planning on getting Ben their Zombie Annihilation Crate for Christmas--so shhhhh if you know us in real life!!!), their mission is to create unique "man" gifts (though some of these I would also adore). I am totally happy to tell you about their company because I think it's a really fun idea and shopping for the men in your life can sometimes be a bit difficult. I also really like how these crates all come with a crowbar so there is no need for gift wrap--you get to rip that sucker open with a crowbar! How cool is that?!

Anyway, check out their site Man Crates and let me know what you think!

And now on to my survival kit:

I put a lot of thought into things I couldn't live without. Obviously there are a ton of things that I wish I could add, but I needed to break it down to five so here we go!

First up, a notebook and pen. If you know me, if you have ever met me for even like, five seconds, you'll know I'm a diary-keeper. My brother was getting his hair cut a couple weeks back and the girl recognized his name and asked if he was related to me. When he said yes she told him she remembered when I wrote a book when I was in eighth grade based off my journals. Like, I did that. It makes me want to shrink up into a ball and die of embarrassment that I showed people this, but people read it and dug it. Which is a crazy thought, but all thoughts were crazy back in eighth grade. 

Writing in journals has been the longest and strongest relationship outside of family I've had in my life. I have told the pages of countless Moleskines my deepest secrets and wishes, I have confessed, I have contemplated, I have lied, I have asked, I have figured-out and I've done it all within journals. 

To me, writing is the way I process life. I used to think I wanted to be a writer professionally, and maybe I still do, but it has occurred to me recently that maybe this is just what it is: me and my diary. I don't need to make a career out of this--just having it, just knowing that part of myself is always there to lean on can be enough. 

I know writing in journals can intimidate people, but I believe in it so strongly. If you're ever just feelin' all over the place and need something to do, go buy yourself a nice Moleskine and an inky black pen and just let it all out. It can do wonders. I truly could not survive without something to write on, which may sound dramatic, but don't forget I'm the girl who wrote memoir in eighth grade. 

Alright, let's take a step over to my vain side. This stuff rocks. It rocks my socks hard. It's the Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate and it has saved my skin from everything from big pores to stress-induced cystic acne to flaky-dry Moscow-beaten and winter-stained cheeks. 

I put this baby on every single night and wake up the next morning feeling like $1,000,000. I know it seems a bit pricey, but I'm always going to be in the "do-what-you-need-to-to-feel-good" boat. And it's important to take care of your skin too.

Chocolate. I couldn't live without chocolate. I wouldn't want to live without chocolate. I actually don't even really like this one, but it's all I had in my kitchen (I'm trying to force myself to like dark chocolate for health reasons, but I just want to run down the street and pick up the creamy Sea Salt chocolate bar I actually want). 

Fun fact: I actually eat chocolate at every meal except for breakfast. I know this is really weird, but I can't help myself. For both lunch and dinner, I also break off a tiny bit of my chocolate bar and eat it with my meal (I don't eat dessert after dinner). I'm not really sure where I picked this up from, but it's pretty crucial to my enjoyment of my dinner. I've even got Ben hooked on it now too!

My iPad mini. 

I don't know if this makes me uncool for including a piece of technology, but I really do rely on this baby for a lot. It's my translator, my connector, my maps, my friends, my books, my news, my immersion into the world. 

I don't really fear technology and never have. I mean yes, there are aspects I fear, but I'm always wanting to get my hands on whatever the newest gadget is (I had a palm pilot when I was in the fourth grade) and I think having the internet at your disposal can be a very valuable thing. 

But my iPad is really important to me and it has made my life as an expat a lot easier. Even in small ways like have access to magazines or books in my own language, but it's definitely coming with my survival kit (but also because like duh, if there's a zombie apocalypse going on---which I am always prepared for--you might have some time to plan an escape route before the internet goes out... just sayin...)

And last but certainly not least, my trust toothbrush. 

I love my teeth and I love taking care of them. I'm an avid two-times a day brusher and I feel really uncomfortable if I don't, so yeah. Toothbrush comes too. 

Alright, so that's my survival kit! What would you guys pack? Feel free to write your own survival kit posts and send them to me, maybe I could link a bunch of them up! And don't forget to check out Man Crates. Seriously, I can't wait to get one for Ben (I've been taunting him with hints and he has no idea what it could be--I just keep telling him I have the best gift in the world waiting for him back in the states for Christmas). 


22 July 2014

Lately, Flowers, Missing Friends

Despite the beautiful flowers, sun-filled windows, and cheating-day chocolate chip cookies, this has actually been a pretty sad week. 

Our best friends left Moscow. Even when I type that sentence, it doesn't feel real. It's not even a real thought to anyone that is not Ben or I because they weren't your best friends and it can be hard to feel for other people's losses over the internet. But we felt it quite hard. Our best friends left Moscow. 

It's strange how empty our lives are without their weekly conversations, without our texts and phone calls planning mid-week dinner parties, card playing nights, cigarette smoke dominated porch hangs--all of it. It's just gone now. Just me and Ben once again in a city that doesn't speak. A city we feel like most of the time we have overstayed our welcome in. 

We met one of them in college, but though he lived only a literal fifty feet away, we never really seemed to cross paths. He met a girl on a semester abroad and they came here and met again, moving into the center at the same time Ben and I did. We went out for Mexican food one night and came back with ten thousand weekend plans. Sometimes it felt like we started hanging out one night and never stopped. 

For a long time, Ben and I were really lonely here. We moved to Moscow in the dead of winter almost two years ago and worked at a small school with only one other teacher who would drink a beer and turn angry. We hardly made any money at all and going out on the weekends absolutely drained us. It was a hard time. Though Ben and I are totally best friends and complete partners, a lot of times we feel as though were one person. Of course Ben fills me with more happiness than any person in the world, but we all need more people in our lives. That is something all couples must realize at some point. 

Our two friends were a real gift in that way. They lifted up our weekends and filled us with an excitement and energy we had been really missing. They shared their Moscow and we shared ours. Together, we all made a bit of a home for ourselves. They moved nearby and it felt like we had a bit of a family here. 

But no matter how fabulous a weekend may be, life must move on. Our friend W. from college accepted a place at American University and no matter how much my "subtle" hints about how lame international relations graduates are (they're not, okay? I just wanted him to stay!), he booked his ticket and went to Washington, D.C,. She left too. 

We had what felt like a million good-bye parties. We went out every night for those last two weeks. We watched the sun come up over the chic apartments in our neighborhood night after night. We took B-52 shots and smoked cigarettes until our lungs hurt. And we kept doing it as though it wasn't the last month, the last week, the last weekend, and then finally... the last night. 

When they left, both Ben and I cried little rivers down our cheeks. Ben swung his arm around my shoulders as we left the place we'd had our last lunch and told me they were great friends to have and at it was a great thing that we'd had them. I hid under my sunglasses and wished everything could just stay the same forever. 

Before she left, F. came over with a bouquet of flowers she'd gotten at work but couldn't keep because she was leaving. Ben and I carefully cut the stems, warmed and sugared water, and brought flowers into all three rooms of our three room apartment. It has somehow made things a bit better. Flowers just have that way on people. 

I'm sorry if this is all kind of dramatic or sad, but it's been awhile since I just flowed through this blog. When I was at college I remember professor after professor giving the same advice to me and to my peers. "Bleed it out--let it flow through you."

Which is actually quite a frustrating thing to tell anyone who is in the creative field. Sometimes I'd sit on my squeaky little dorm bed and slam my fingers into the keys and use nasty words and tell deeply personal stories just to like, hit some vein or something. But the times that people really cared about my words and the times that my professor would smile and tell me he could really "hear" me was when I was just telling my diary something. Just because I really did need to tell someone about something. So I guess that's what I'm doing here. 

Ben and I are 99% sure we are going to move to Japan (still possibly Taiwan though) come the early spring. We have some great plans in-between, but to save everyone who reads this and our poor parents, I will wait to finalize them before I talk about them. There are still good things, but we will sure miss our favorite friends. 

Sincerely, Lisa

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