So, despite completely intending not to go back to the States for 27 months after I left, I went home for the holidays. The decision to go was made in the fog of a particularly desperate moment back in late September. And it was made in such haste that I, in fact, almost screwed myself by not going through all of the appropriate PC approvals. But, in the end, all worked out and off I went on Dec. 19. My trip included a few days in Istanbul, a few days in Houston, a week in Indiana, and few days in Austin. Istanbul definitely deserves its own post and will get one soon. For now, I will just say it is a stunning city and I had a great time on my solo stay there.
So, on to America. If you read my last post, you know that I was having some mixed feelings about going back. There were a lot of things running through my head. But one of the main things was fear that a trip home would erode the firm footing I had established in my life here and that I’d come back and have to adjust all over again. Painful. So, the day I was setting off on the first leg of my trip from Batumi, I was sick with anxiety. My few days in Istanbul served as a nice transition though. And when I got on the flight to Houston from Istanbul, my anxiety had subsided a bit.
I won’t bore you with all of the details of my trip. I will say that I went with a list of foods that I wanted to eat. I was successful in eating most of them. Top most on my list was guacamole of which I managed to eat pounds (okay maybe not pounds, but a lot!). I had lots of tex-mex. However, my new Georgian appetite limited how much food I could actually ingest. I was only able to manage one good meal a day while I was there because, after that one meal, I wouldn’t be hungry again. Which leads me to another amazing discovery on my trip home. I weighed myself on my mom’s scale (the last I had used in the States before I left) and I’ve dropped 15 lbs since I’ve been in Georgia. My secret? Mainly, starvation. I’m telling you, it works! Okay, starvation might be an exaggeration, but there have been many days that my diet consisted of ramen noodles for lunch and rice cakes with peanut butter or nutella for dinner with a piece of chocolate as a snack. Very healthy, I know. But the result is my appetite has gotten much smaller which is definitely a good thing. Except when you are faced with unlimited food options for the first time in nine months and only have a brief window in which to take advantage. Then it is just unfortunate. If you find yourself in a similar situation, I highly recommend NOT visiting Austin. The sheer amount of places to get incredible food are mind boggling (particularly to someone who has been living in a country where every restaurant serves the same six dishes and I don’t care for two of them). (Side note: one of the most challenging things for me during my visit was to stare down a 4+ page menu and just not know what do do. In Georgia, we no longer look at the menu in most restaurants because they are all the same and we already know what we want.) Although it was my first visit to Austin, I am a HUGE fan. Not only do they have a million restaurants and street carts, but they have a great music scene (maybe you hadn’t heard?). And I got to experience all of it with some great company. Definitely a city I could and will spend more time in.
Another highlight of my trip home included celebrating Christmas with my family on Dec. 28. My sister was kind enough to let me take over her kitchen to cook Christmas dinner (as she always does when I visit). It was nice to see everyone together (aside from my Dad who was sick with the flu and couldn’t make it). It actually seemed to me that we had all just gotten together for Christmas just the other day. It is strange how my perception of time is constantly shifting since I’ve been here. Most of the time I feel as if I’ve been here forever (although it has only been 9 months). But when I was home with my family, I felt as if I had just left. But when I next see them, there will be no doubt that time has marched on. My niece Chloe will be 9 when I get back as she announced multiple times while I was there. And my nephew Nate’s voice will have completely transitioned from that of a boy to that of a young man. Nothing like kids to help you mark the time. So, the only time I busted out my camera while I was in the States was with my family. And I’ve included some of those photos here. Because a post isn’t a post without photos. On New Year’s Eve, I headed up to Fishers, IN for the annual Poker for Prizes gathering. I was excited to be able to make my third annual showing and spend time with some of my best friends from college. During my time home, I also managed to connect with some other old friends and family, make some new friends, meet some pretty cool young people that I’d heard a lot about, and steal the heart of one lovable boxer (she stole mine too).
But eventually, my time was up and I had to leave the land of magical breakfast food (seriously the breakfast options in the States are mind blowing). It was just as hard to get back on the plane to Georgia as it had been to get on the plane to the United States two and a half weeks before. However, it was much less scary than it had been nine months ago when I first left for Georgia. This time, I knew what I was going back to. I was going back to a place where: I feel awkward 75% of the time, I can only dream of most of the foods I had enjoyed during my visit home, I’d be cold all the time for the next three months, and I still struggle against the confines of being a woman here. But I was also coming back to friends that have become family to me, a place where I’ve recovered from the rough few years I’ve had and can actually recognize myself again. And a place where I have a lot of things I would like to accomplish. So, when I looked out the window on the snow covered mountains surrounding Batumi as the plane made its approach, I thought “Georgia is a different world.” And that was just fine with me. It’s a world that has been really good for me. And my feet don’t feel unsteady at all.