Edward Hopper visits our flat

I lie on the bed in the front room our apartment. Our home is a long narrow railroad Victorian flat from the late 19th century. To call one room the bedroom and the other the living room is arbitrary. Even the kitchen wouldn’t be a kitchen if it weren’t for that fact that someone once plugged in a stove and refrigerator in the backmost, 3rd, room of the flat. The sink is in yet another, though much smaller, room that may or may not have always been a pantry. But perhaps it was once a part of the back porch. Maybe someone slept there once. It’s hard to tell. The place hasn’t been renovated since 1939.

So it is in the front room we placed our bed on which I lie. The sounds of San Francisco’s busy 24th St. echo in. We are on the first level of a 3-story walk-up. The wood frame of the building and the single-paned windows do little to keep the city out. We hear the motorcycles and the ambulances, of course — St. Luke’s is only 3 blocks away. And we hear the dogs and the children running around and the parents and the owners chiding them. We hear the drunken hipsters of course. They wax a discourse on the cool art project they are building for the next Burning Man. The stoned hipsters are quieter. More reflective. But we can hear them too as they wax poetics about what they saw at their last Burning Man. And we hear the lovers. Always the lovers. San Francisco is the American city for love and romance — despite what the money-grubbing, bubbling, vaporwaring Web 2.0 dot-com booming and busting venture capitalists and engineers and their related PR agents and advertising executives might tell you as they place yet another ad on Nerve.com, Match.com, Yahoo Personals, EHarmony and CraigsList never realizing the love they’re looking for is in the city itself.

And so the words of lovers trickle into our home as they make their way to or from the BART or MUNI stops, each synchronized step is a moment of foreplay for what will unfold once they reach the privacy of their home. I lie on the bed, in a slightly-fevered state from a mild summer cold. The Ukrainian is next to me, sitting in a red chair taken from the kitchen that isn’t really a kitchen. He has unfolded a card table that someone once gave us as they left San Francisco to return to the East Coast. He is typing and staring at his little 13″ white MacBook on which he has long-since removed the pre-installed Mac OS X and replaced it with Windows Vista because…because that is just the sort of thing the Ukrainian does.

I drift in and out of my fevered consciousness. The Ukrainian types and stares and moves the cursor around the MacBook. He is working on a balance sheet for his summer internship at a small financial firm here in the most romantic American city that once hosted the idealistic Summer of Love. He is doing a Merger and Acquisition. Some company somewhere I want to to sell to another. Somebody somewhere wants to love another. And the lovers outside want to be alone together so they can express their love.

And the Ukrainian and I? We are in love. In between each calculation on his Excel spreadsheet, he looks over, wanting to know if I need anything. Is there anything he can do to relieve my fever, he asks. Should he go, he wonders. Should he leave this room that intersects so perfectly with the lovely city outside and work in the kitchen that isn’t a kitchen so that I can sleep. No, I tell him. Stay here. With you here, I am happy. My fever will be ok.

I drift to sleep anyway. But in that moment before I lose consciousness to the world outside on 24th St., I remember Edward Hopper’s “Room in New York” where he depicts (what I presume to be) a husband and wife idling time in the front room of their flat. He is reading the newspaper. Her fingers are tinkling the piano. They are doing their own thing together. They seem at peace with each other and with their world. This poster hung on my wall throughout college. Someday, I thought, I want that. I want “Room in New York” with someone.

I take one last look at the Ukrainian — my husband. He is too intent on his work to see me watching him. Please, I say silently in my head. Please, never let our lives be anything but this. This peace, love, and harmony I feel with you right now.

And I sleep.

The road to nowhere

I left rural Iowa at 18 — never intending to go back. For the most part I haven’t. Even at my worst, down, out, unemployed broke self, I used Iowa only as a staging ground. A place to store my bags while I booked tickets to either coast, looking for that place where I could most be myself. While the leaving was easy, the staying away has been hard. I miss my family. I miss reliable people. I fear waking one day and realizing that my parents are gone and I missed out on so many years of having them in my life.

And sometimes…I simply miss me. I miss the genuine midwestern friendliness I had. The curiosity. The excitement at being in a new place — even if that place was hell. I miss trusting other people — but I have since learned that you can only trust others if you trust yourself. I admire the people I know who have left similar spots and have held onto that integral core of goodness. For I have not.

These thoughts are not from nowhere. On May 10th, in celebration of the Ukrainian’s birthday, we rented a car, loaded it up with the dogs, and headed for a daytrip to Lake Tahoe. For the most part, the day was full of great fun and I will post the pics in a future post. But towards the end of the day, as we were trying to complete our sunset drive around the entirety of Lake Tahoe, we took a wrong turn and eventually found ourselves in Carson City — the state capital of Nevada.

I have driven across the U.S. a couple of times now. I’ve visited Latin America, Asia and have lived in Europe and other parts of the States. And while there are certainly worse places to live (a garbage dump in S. America comes to mind), I’ve yet to encounter a place more wretched than Nevada (and here, by writing this, I realize I will never, ever be able to run for politics. I’m ok with that). Once you get away from the casinos and shopping malls of Reno and Las Vegas, there is very little left in Nevada other than some federal prisons and a few nuclear test sites.

“I can’t wait to tell my mother we’ve been to Nevada,” exclaimed the Ukrainian jumping up and down in his seat as we drove.

“I don’t really think that Nevada is the most exciting place to write home about,” replied my jaded, bored no-longer-from-the-midwest self. Where is my sunset over Lake Tahoe, I wondered.

“Oh, but it is. It’s the site of the U.S. nuclear experiments during the Cold War. I grew up hearing about this place.”

And there you have it folks, the matter of perspective that makes cross-cultural marriages so refreshing (if challenging at times). What was a minor mention in some history class of mine at some point in my education — “Yeah, the U.S. performed nuclear tests somewhere. Nevada. And some atoll in the S. Pacific” — was the stuff of legend in my Ukrainian’s Soviet education. I’m sure my Ukrainian and his Soviet classmates got a map with the exact location of each test performed while midwestern schoolchildren got “Nevada. It’s out west. Nobody lives there — well, except some Elvis impersonators who will marry those rich, immoral, and impatient enough to forgo God, a blood test, and a 3 day waiting period”.

But outside of Las Vegas (and possibly Reno) there aren’t any Elvis impersonators. There isn’t really much of anybody really — as my history class proclaimed. And for the people who are there — how and why did they end up there? You can’t really set up a farm in Nevada. I suppose the Federal penitentiaries provide some employment, but who says “Hey Ma! Let’s pack up the family and move to Nevada. I am going to work security detail at a a federal prison!” (Hmmm…maybe they do actually).

Regardless, the people I have encountered in rural Nevada bear the face and carriage of ones who struggle to eke out a basic living. Their faces seem prematurely old — their skin tough as are their souls. The toughness frightens me. And each time I’ve pulled over at a gas station in Nevada, it has always been with the attitude of get in, fill up, and get out. Most of the people are probably quite nice, but they are much tougher than me. And I don’t want trouble.

But not my Ukrainian. He is so kind-hearted, so un-jaded, that he doesn’t see or chooses to ignore what I view to be the imminent dangers in the world. As we head out of the northern outskirts of Carson City, we realize that we may have missed the road back to California. Not one to be afraid of asking for directions, the Ukrainian does a u-turn and pulls over at a 7-11.

Great! I think. We’ll get pointed back to Interstate 80 and soon be on our way to San Francisco.

Great! the Ukrainian thinks. I’ll get some directions…some food…some Red Bull…stretch my legs…use the toilet…relax a bit. And then we’ll go back home.

While the Ukrainian is enjoying our time in Carson City, Nevada and I’m sitting inside the car with the doors locked fearing for my life and virtue, one of the tough local Nevadans approaches my Ukrainian.

“Are you the one who scratched my car?” the local asks. He is young man in his early 20s, looking like someone who is used to looking for trouble. He is accompanied by 2 young women, and driving a silver sports car with doors that open up rather than out. It’s not a Lamborghini.

My Ukrainian smiles. “No man. We are just sitting here having a rest and some dinner.”

The man and my Ukrainian exchange some more words. The man is trying to raise a ruckus. He wants to blame someone, anyone, for the scratch on his car. But my Ukrainian is oblivious. He keeps talking, smiling, laughing in the most kind-hearted, genteel away. As much as the Nevadan tries to find fault with my Ukrainian, he can’t. My Ukrainian has simply put him too much at ease. They exchange a few friendly last words, shake hands, and the Nevadan departs.

I am relieved, of course. My fear of finding trouble in Nevada has been ameliorated — for now. But more than that, I am jealous. I long for that innocent, good-heartedness that most people find hard to resist. I once had it — back when I was fresh from Iowa and not yet jaded with the world.

I do know that we look for in our lovers what we are missing in ourselves. And I’m glad that my Ukrainian possesses the good that I miss from what used to be me.

Defining our ethics

Saturday afternoon. The Ukrainian and I are at our place du preferee: the Bloomingdale’s Mall aka Westfield on Market St. He had received a gift card to Banana Republic from my parents for his birthday. We accomplished the mission rather quickly as he settled on a subtle summer plaid business shirt. Could we escape the cavernous shopping center without doing any damage to my wallet?

Uhm, no. Not possible. It is verily impossible to go from the Banana Republic to the Market St. exit without walking past Zara — the epitome of affordable European chic with styles straight from the runway (and a better fit than H&M I might add).

“Oooo…let’s go in and have just a look.”

“Just a look?” the Ukrainian asks, doubtful that I can escape the building without a single purchase. I had already fended off his offer to buy me a new shirt at Banana Republic (it was cute, but truly, ridiculously overpriced).

“Yeah, just a look. I just want to see.”

The Ukrainian follows me around Zara. We both point out the things we like, but never do our fingers land on the same item. The Ukrainian is obsessed with the super-tight dress shorts that are hot for summer and my fingers fondle the long chiffon blouses — neither of which could be adequately worn during San Francisco’s always chilly and foggy summer.

And then I see it. The short cropped black motorcycle jacket with studded details that I have always wanted.

“Oooo….look at this.” I run over and finger the soft, supple leather. Like baby skin, it feels. This jacket is the epitome of cool — like way the name Angel is the epitome of cool for a macho boyfriend.

“You can’t wear that. You’re a vegetarian.”

“So?” I ask incredulously. “My shoes are made of leather. You’ve never said anything before.”

“You can’t buy only canvas shoes. They have to be made of leather.”

My fingers continue to caress the soft leather.

“Being a vegetarian means I don’t consume animals. It doesn’t mean I can’t wear them.” I try hard to make my case. But I don’t even bother to look at the price tag.

I know what he really means. We have a wedding to plan. We have other expenses. A new leather jacket is not on the agenda. And yes, it probably would be a bit hypocritical to walk down San Francisco’s militantly vegetarian streets wearing a leather motorcycle jacket simply because it’s cool — not because I ride a motorcycle.

But I do not escape Zara so easily. Zara is full of very cool jackets. Only the one was made of leather. I walk out with this grey little number — justifying it as the perfect summerwear for those foggy summer nights when the rest of the Northern hemisphere is rocking the sheer chiffon blouses and sexy short shorts.

Ukrainian approved. Vegetarian-friendly.

A little (un-pc) background

Summer 1995 — Edwardo’s on Chicago’s 57th St.

It was a regular summer weeknight. The Edwardo’s staff comprised mostly of equal parts students from the University of Chicago, local African Americans from the ghettos that surrounded Hyde Park, and not-entirely legal immigrants from Mexico who staffed the kitchen and bussed the tables. We had two waitresses on duty: myself (the UofC student who had just moved up from answering phones to waiting tables) and Lateisha, an African-American woman who came from one of the blighted South Side neighborhoods that surrounded Hyde Park. She had waited tables at Edwardo’s for years. She carried a “Don’t mess with me attitude” and I had no intention of messing with her.

Our shift started at 5 pm and not long after, our first customer arrived: A large African-American family of about 7 people. Edwardo’s waitressing etiquette commanded that the more senior waitress on hand was to get the first table. After that, new tables were to be rotated evenly between the staff.

“You have a table, ” I said to Lateisha as the family stood by the “Please Wait to be Seated” sign at the front of the restaurant.

“Nuh-uh. They ain’t my table. You take them.”

“But they’re first. And you’ve been here longer.” Why the hell doesn’t she want the table, I wondered.

“I don’t wait on no niggers.”

Oh. Ok. If you’re going to put it like that. I guess the table was mine. Like I said, I wasn’t interested in messing with Lateisha. And I wasn’t rude enough to leave a hungry family standing at the front of a restaurant. With my politest, fake-genuine Iowa smile and upbeat tone of voice I knew, I greeted the family, sat them and proceeded to take their order.

And now, here in this little story, if I was a true liberal interested in writing a “Don’t judge a book by its cover”/break-all-stereotypes story, I would write how that family was the nicest family I ever met with the most polite children I’d ever seen and they left me a very generous tip that must’ve been quite a stretch for their most-likely-limited budget.

But that’s not what happened. The family lived up to every stereotype you could imagine for a family that lived in a ghetto and had not been taught — nor interested in — how to behave with decorum and politeness in public. The grown women were rude and talked to me as if I was their personal servant. The children created mess after mess as children are wont to do. There was something “wrong” with every plate of food I brought out to the family. And, of course, only giving a discount for each plate was the only way to “fix” the problem. And, at the end of the meal when that section of the restaurant had been thoroughly trashed? No tip.

Fine, I said silently to Lateisha in my mind. You’re not going to wait on niggers (your words not mine). Ok. But then every piece of white trash that comes in here — they are yours. Every European with the fancy jeans who forgot to read the section in the guidebook that says “U.S. restaurant food is cheap because the restaurants don’t pay their servers” — they’re yours too, Lateisha.

It was not a game of race, but a game of class. It was easy to predict who was going to tip you. Students? Oddly, yes. Many were flush with cash from their parents’ support or had waited their own tables to support themselves. Professors, grad students, etc. Yes, but at a flat 15% rate. Middle-to-upper class African-Americans? Yes, and quite well. European tourists? Not at all. Lower-income whites from the less-desirable white neighborhoods from the southwestern reaches of Chicagoland? Most likely not much, but maybe a token amount. Low-income African-American residents of the Chicago projects. No. And they were going to work you to the bone.

And it was with that single “I don’t wait on no niggers” comment coming from my African-American colleague, my mind began to wake up a little to the fact that the world is a much more complicated place than I was idealistically raised to believe in rural Iowa.

After all, how can race be an issue if you have no concept of race?

Some shoes, a livery driver, and same-sex marriage & parenting

The Ukrainian and I exit Bloomingdale’s on Market Street. We are
only a few yards away from the entrance to the underground BART train
that can deposit us a few blocks from our house in San Francisco’s Noe
Valley in exactly 7 minutes. But I am wearing my new Steve Maddens —
the ones constructed with 5 inch heels and tight apple green leather
trimmed in brown. I have been wearing them for the past 9 hours and
walking those last few yards to the train daunts me to all but tears.

“We’ll take cab,” the Ukrainian says feeling my wince our every
step. I am clinging to his arm as if an old lady while trying to brave
a face of youth that doesn’t scream “Yes, these shoes are new and
crippling and I am silly for wearing them, but aren’t they hot?!?”

There is a dearth of cabs on the east-bound side of Market St. where
we are standing. I allow myself a cursory remembrance of my past New
York life that included cabs everywhere as candy for the taking.
“Perhaps we’ll have more luck on the other side,” suggests the
Ukrainian. I agree, steeling myself for the pain that will be involved
in crossing the 4+ lane street.

As we begin to cross the 2nd lane, an elegant, shiny black towncar
pulls up behind us. “Taxi?” the slightly-pudgy E. Indian driver asks.
Without even turning around to look at him — for I can see the driver
and his car out of the corner of my eye — I dismiss him with my hand,
saying “No, you are too expensive.” “No, no ma’am. You say how much,
and I will take you where you want to go.” I hesitate. Tempted. The
additional 3 lanes and a bike path to cross may be more pain than I can
bear. But I also consider that the last private car that offered to
take us home wanted $30 for the honor, when a regular taxi would only
cost $12.

“Ok,” I say. “How about $15?”

“Sure, get in,” replies the driver with a smile. I am amazed at the
ease with which the transaction takes place. I had expected more
negotiating or the driver scoffing my offer away. But my amazement is
replaced quickly by fear and embarrassment as the driver does a u-turn
straight into the path of an oncoming bicyclist.

The bicyclist is not amused by the threat on his life. He rides up
to the car and starts chiding the livery driver through the open
passenger window.

“What are you doing, man?”

“What do you mean ‘what am I doing’? What are you doing? You see me, you brake. You are bike, I am car.”

“Hey man, I have full right to the road. You need to yield to oncoming traffic. You almost killed me.”

“No, no. You only get to be on the far right side. You were not on the far right side.”

The argument quickly ends as the stoplight turns green and both the
driver and bicyclist are more interested in their final destination
than the proving themselves right.

Or so I think. The driver continues his tirade against the bicyclist
at us. And we are his captive audience. “That bicyclist had no right to
be where he was…he should have stopped when he saw me…” It was the
classic case of methinks-thou-dost-protest too much, but I refrain from
saying anything. My silence is hypocritical of me for I also ride my
bike down Market St. during rush hour several times a week. But my feet
are too grateful for the ride home to put my foot where my mouth might
go, so I keep it shut.

The driver’s diatribe does not last long though. As we approach
Duboce Triangle — the part of Market Street where the Castro, Mission
and Lower Haight districts intersect — traffic slows to a crawl. A
vocal gathering on the sidewalk is beginning to spill out into the
street.

What is it? A protest? A celebration? Another typical San Francisco
day where the abnormal is the norm? And then I remember…the
California Supreme Court had overturned the ban on same-sex marriage.
The Castro is the center of gay pride. Of course! Progressives are
celebrating! Conservatives are protesting!

The driver switches is rant from bicyclists to gays.

“Look. I don’t care if they want to be gay. That is nobody’s business.”

Ok..I think…at least he isn’t completely closed-minded.

“But to allow them to marry! To have children! That is not right.”

But there are limits to his open-mindedness.

While I had kept quiet about his attitude towards bicyclists, I
can’t keep my mouth shut about same-sex marriages and parenting. I
decide to try a rational argument — the same rational argument I had
used on the Ukrainian just last summer when he had voiced similar
opinions after our attendance at the 2007 Gay Pride Parade on the very
same Market Street.

“I don’t see how one’s private sexual practices affect their ability to be good parents.”

“They can be gay all they want, but they shouldn’t be allowed to have children,” the driver reiterates.

“Why?”
I ask. “Are you afraid that their children will automatically turn out
gay? If the parents’ sexuality affects the children, then why do most
gays have straight parents?” Now was not the time to get into the
nuances of gay, straight, lesbian, queer, transgender and any other
categorization of sexuality that I had encountered since moving to San
Francisco. I wanted to keep the argument simple.

“They won’t be good parents,” he insisted.

“Why not? If they are caring and loving and supportive of the children? If
they help with the homework and set boundaries, etc…how is that not
being good parents? If they are in a loving committed relationship,
what is wrong with that? What about a single mother who brings home a
different man every night? Is she some how a better mother?” I played
into his conservative side to open his mind a little. “What about
parents who beat their children? Are addicted to drugs? Are they
somehow better parents because they’re heterosexual?”

The driver thought a little, conceded a bit, said “You do have a good point”. I
don’t know if the concession came from him wanting to get his fare, or
if indeed, his mind had opened a little. I hope it was the latter.

By now, we had arrived at our house in Noe Valley. I walk barefoot from
the car to our building, with the Ukrainian carrying my shoes — the
ones that had gotten us into this conversation in the first place.

“Put this in your blog, ” the Ukrainian says. “It’s important. I didn’t know better until you explained it to me.”

The
Ukrainian is referring back to the conversation we had while walking
the dogs after the 2007 San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. We had attended
the parade as a fun date and, afterwards, he had offered the same
arguments that the driver had again against same-sex marriage &
parenting. I gave the same counter-arguments, and over-time, maybe not
that day, but in the months that have passed, my Ukrainian’s mind has
opened. He now supports same-sex marriage and parenting.

Progress. Just a little bit at a time, but progress nonetheless

A little bit more of a wife

We stood at the corner of Bush & Montgomery. Already, it was 9:05 a.m. He was late. He leaned down to give me a quick kiss good-bye so I could head off to my office and he could go to his.

But before the kiss, there was first a question.

“Honey, what’re you doing after work today?” My Ukrainian has long since learned all the amourisms to call his beloved. I have yet to learn when he uses them to be romantic and when he has a more ulterior motive in mind.

“I don’t know. Go home. Do stuff.”

“Are you going shopping? Maybe?” There was the tainted sound of hope if his voice. He definitely had an ulterior motive today.

“I wasn’t planning on it. Why? What do you need?”

“3 Hugo Boss shirts. The kind that go under my long-sleeve shirts.” He instinctively pointed to the collar of his undershirt to be clear that I wouldn’t misunderstand what he meant.

“Ok, maybe. Where did you buy them? The Hugo Boss store”

“I don’t know. Maybe Bloomingdale’s. Maybe Macy’s.”

So tonight, I will go around Union Square and Market St and try to track down my husband’s favorite undershirts. I am definitely more of a wife today than I was yesterday.

Once upon a time, I was a foreigner too

Not so very long ago — in the days before I met the Ukrainian — I spent almost a year living and working in the Netherlands. My arrival there seemed almost an act of God (though few of the Dutch I met believed in any deity). Like my meeting with the Ukrainian, I found the posting for the Dutch job on Craig’s List. As I already had plans to holiday in W. Europe to visit my cousin, I applied for the position almost as a lark. To my surpise and astonishment, I got the job and found myself moving to the Netherlands barely more than 3 months later.

I was optimistic about the move and the new position. I was excited about leaving urban and corporate America for the smaller Dutch cities. Having grown up in Iowa — but having left the state as a teenager — I found the tall, blonde Dutch people, the flat land, and the fields of cows and flowers to be comforting. I felt at home on my visit. Why should my move there be different?

What I was not prepared for was being incapable of performing some of the simplest daily tasks on my own. Everything from package delivery to garbage take-out was all done just a little bit differently and in a foreign language. My cousin tried to help a bit when I first arrived, but she had her own problems to deal with and could not be available for a needy foreign cousin. My employer was of some help with charting the course of getting my legal documents in order so that I could get paid and pay taxes. And I had one female colleague — one who had championed my cause to be hired by the company — who went above and beyond trying to help me adjust to life in a foreign country.

But it was not enough. There were too many calls to be made in Dutch, letters to be translated, grocery store aisles to be deciphered…and on and on…that I did not even know how to begin to set up my life for something so basic as a phone line or cellphone. So, for much of the first 2 months of my presence in the Netherlands, I lived without cable, tv, phone, or internet. The nights were extremely lonely. I would take the train back from Rotterdam (where I worked) to Haarlem (where I first lived) — an hour and a half journey door-to-door, come home, walk my dogs, and then just sit there on my sofa staring at the ceiling. I wondered, what had I gotten myself into? I had no communications with *anyone* outside of my office (or the emails I would furtively try to catch up on at work).

And then came my hero du jour. A male colleague at my office took notice of my plight and made it his mission to save me. At first, I just thought he was a really nice guy. Who on earth would go so far out of his way to help somebody? He arranged phone, internet, and mobile service for me. Later, he found a house closer to the office so that I would not have such a long commute. He introduced me to his friends so that I would not be lonely. At first, I did not think of any ulterior motive in his actions — after all, I had left someone back in the States who had bought a plane ticket to come visit me.

But soon, my gratitude for all his help turned into a crush. The Dutch male colleague looked like a classic Iowa farmboy:  tall, blonde and brawny (Iowa was mostly settled by Germans, Dutch and Scandinavians, so it shouldn’t have been that surprising). If I squinted a little, he almost looked like my dad. As my crush grew, I began to suspect that the feelings were returned. I called things off with the man back in San Francisco and soon got together with the Dutchman.

At first, we seemed in love. But it was an unbalanced love confused with need. He was my hero and I could not function without him. If the heater was broken, I would have to stay home from work and have the repairman use my cellphone to call the Dutchman at work to translate everything being said in my house. If I was sick, the Dutchman had to call the doctor. If I had questions about my energy bill, the Dutchman would have to call the energy company. The dependency was frustrating because it seriously tipped the balance of power in the relationship. I often felt like a small child with no control over my life.

Clearly, the relationship with the Dutchman in the Netherlands did not last as I am married now to a Ukrainian in San Francisco. But I am grateful for the experience. There is a risk that the same disbalance of power could happen in our relationship. There are so many things I know about how to be a good American that have nothing to do with citizenship or patriotism but more with how to reroute a UPS package, rent a car, find a dog-sitter on Craigslist, or the etiquette involved in paying a restaurant bill. It’s a challenging balance to find. At one level, you want to help. On another, you want the person to be independent and figure it out themselves, but magically getting it right on the first try. Sometimes, the easiest way, is to let someone else explain.

We have a good balance. The Ukrainian has adapted to American culture far faster and better than I ever did to the Dutch way of life. There are still occasional moments, when I am surprised by something he doesn’t know. But there are becoming some moment when he seems to know “the system” better than I.

One day, maybe, he will know it all better than I do. Either way, we will be in Kiev at some point and I will become lost once again.