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It's a strange world, being an English language writer on ЖЖ. Some of you may wonder how an American made her way to the Russian blogosphere. It all started in April 2012 when my Ukrainian friend sent me a link to one of Ilya Varlamov's (varlamov.ru) African stories. Immediately I was captivated. A sea of intelligent and prolific thinkers/travelers all writing in the same place. I became hooked, reading many of the top bloggers daily for intellectual pursuit but also to study Russian words.

Then I became friends with another popular Russian blogger, made my way to Russia, and wrote a story that received a lot of attention when he translated it into Russian on his blog. Now I have a wonderful audience, consisting entirely of Russian speaking subscribers. I still don't know how some people make their way to my journal but I'm very grateful for your readership, insight and comments. Sometimes I question whether I should continue writing on
ЖЖ, or move to another platform where I'll reach a larger English speaking audience. However, I think there's some value in having an American woman writing here, in a creative space that is dominated mostly by male bloggers.

This post will now remain at the top as an open forum. I try to maintain an active dialogue with readers and you can write what you wish in these comments. Tell me something interesting about yourself, how you discovered my blog, ask questions about America, travel or any other topic. And, most importantly, let me know the types of stories in which you're interested. People appear most fascinated with my thoughts and impressions on Russia, but unfortunately I don't have the time or financial resources to spend an extended period exploring other parts of the country. I'll be certain to return in the near future, maybe early winter. My favorite season! Until then, I'll try to keep you entertained with stories about other topics and places.

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Readers in Georgia?

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It's very amusing to hear impressions and stereotypes about Georgia from my Russian readers. Unfortunately, I don't think I have many native Georgians reading this blog. I will be there in two weeks, and will spend several days in Tbilisi at the beginning and end of the journey. Please send me a message if you are there, and have time to meet for coffee or a quick chat.

In the meantime, I can't fully grasp current relations between Georgia and Russia, despite having read a lot of articles on this topic recently.  The most common stereotypes about Georgians repeated to me by Russian readers:

(1) Georgians are very, very lazy - especially Georgian men;
(2) most mafia in Soviet times were Georgians - yes, constant warnings about the Georgian mafia! :));
(3) they are hot-blooded Southerners, loud, animated; and
(4) continual comments about the wild men of the Caucasus'!


In fact, I think there is quite a long history of Russian females being attracted and drawn to men from the Caucasus, though I don't know the precise reasons why. The most amusing comment in my recent post about celibacy came when a reader wrote - "Думаешь горячие кавказские парни ее разморозят?" Well, I am not a piece of meat that needs to be dethawed! :))  Anyone who immediately attempts to do so will likely fail, and it does not matter if he is from the Caucasus or right here in Washington, DC.

The route is already planned, and I'll journey through the country with a native Georgian, spending most of my time in village areas. I think outside of a few larger cities, the whole country is a big village! :) If you have suggestions on places to visit, things to see, please write in comments. Thanks and pleasant week to all!

Food and lodging in Canada - Banff, Alberta

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My big expedition to Georgia is only a few weeks away, but I was craving a mountain adventure last month and hopped on a plane back to Montana, then onward via car to Alberta, Canada. This is one of the most beautiful places I've seen in all my travels, and the majority of my time was spent in Banff National Park. In this region, you are surrounded by majestic landscapes, pristine turquoise waters and cool forest breezes. I'll write about the natural landscapes in a separate post, but today I want to speak about portion sizes in Canadian restaurants and lodging in Banff.

America is known as the land of gluttony on many levels, and this includes our food. Yes, our portions are huge but I think in Banff they were even larger! I could not believe it actually, the huge piles of food thrown on plates at all restaurants. I traveled with my young cousin who is a hockey player and consumes excessive calories at each setting. Here is his breakfast one morning - something known as "cowboy grits." Grits are a type of crushed cornmeal, not sure if they are popular in Russia, but I do not like the texture or taste. This breakfast costs around 9 Canadian dollars.Read more...Collapse )

"Ours, the best!" - about Russian women

It's very strange for a foreigner to see this statement repeated over and over again in the Russian blogosphere. It's like some type of brainwashing or programming in the minds of men and women there - that "ours" are simply the best, most beautiful! Almost all of my friends are men, many from different countries, and I have not heard any other male make such a proclamation that "Italian women are the best!", "American women are the best!", "German women are the best!"...nope, only Russians say this.

I see another post today on this topic, but there is never a discussion of WHY. In all my travels there, I didn't notice any high ratio of beauties in comparison to other countries in which I've traveled. Of course, "beauty" - it's such a subjective term that it seems almost pointless to discuss the theme with the masses. But I really wonder - why are Russian women "the best"? For what reasons...enlighten me. :)

Нью-Йорк, 9/11

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Today is the same as most recent years on LJ. Some Russian speaking blogger publishes a post about the 9/11 attacks, and everyone jumps in the comments to discuss conspiracy theories or the evil U.S. government, paying absolutely no attention to all the selfless rescue workers, fire fighters and ordinary citizens who sacrificed their lives to save others on that day. It is really what I, as an American, remember most about 9/11. On this point, I read a very disgusting comment by one person - "Я испытала очень смешанные чувства, когда прочитала, как четверо пожарных погибли, спасая по лестнице ожиревшую неходячую гражданку. По мне так не стОило это их жизней."

Last year, I wrote a post about my recollections of this moment in American history, and I publish it again below for those who have not yet read. I don't know how I would have responded if I was on the scene that day. Would I have been selfless enough to sacrifice my life to save another? I don't know, but like to think so...

Originally posted by peacetraveler22 at Нью-Йорк, 9/11

On this day, there's always a very somber mood in the USA. Absolutely everyone from my generation remembers where they were when they first heard the news of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center. Life in the USA was never the same again, even to this day. On the news this morning, I was reminded of how many years have passed - 14. It seems almost unimaginable that there's now a whole generation of kids who have no memories from that day. They were not even born, or were only small toddlers when the graphic images of the towers collapsing appeared on TV screens. Some of my readers who are in their early 20's probably only have vague recollections of this historic event also. But for others, including myself, there's no escaping these images or the fateful tragedies of so many lives that day.Read more...Collapse )

1500 days without sex...

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We live in a hyper-sexual world. There's no way to escape provocative images in media, news, television, film. We've become so saturated with provocation that many have become desensitized to it, and I believe this trend has caused a serious problem with human relations and the ability to experience pure intimacy with another. Such primal connections between a man and woman are necessary for survival on multiple levels, and the entire human race depends on them to a large extent. I'm not speaking only in the context of procreation, but also in the context of pure and positive emotions, energies and life forces free from superficial ties, as these things can rarely sustain relationships long term, or ensure that societies remain cohesive and progressive.

I've watched curiously over the years as my friends play online dating games, spinning like hamsters in a wheel at a frantic pace, moving from one partner to the next. Yet they go absolutely nowhere, stuck in the same cage of loneliness year after year. What does all of this dating and fucking get you in the end? For me, absolutely nothing but exhaustion, frustration and frayed nerves. So, I gave up on these games long ago, and have been in a celibate state for prolonged periods during various phases of life. Today I'll share some insight into the positive and negative aspects of this choice, which very few understand.Read more...Collapse )
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It seems people have lost the ability to think. This is especially true here in the USA, where you will find signs like this everywhere. Even as a lawyer they annoy me, although I understand the purpose is to protect businesses from liability in the event of accidents. In most cases, the signs simply state dangers that should be obvious to someone with even a modicum of common sense. Like - "HAZARD: DO NOT STAND AT THE EDGE OF THE CLIFF." I saw such a warning in San Diego, California.

Recently, I went to a lovely sunflower farm by my house and before I even entered the serene landscape, I was greeted with all these rules and regulations. I rarely notice such signs during my travels in other countries, but a reader from Moscow recently sent me this photo...Read more...Collapse )

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Greetings from the USA! I'm reminded that today is the four year anniversary of my blog. On 27 August 2012, I published my very first story about my love for flight. There are a lot of words, emotions and thoughts. This is the only way I know how to write - in an expressive sense. I understand it's annoying to some, but I'm not the type of person who can ever accept the answer "just because" to any question posed, and I don't like people who can't articulate why they feel or believe a certain way. "Just because" - it's never an acceptable response in any situation, not even love in my view.

We must think about our choices in life, and understand why we are taking certain actions. This is not always easy or comfortable. It takes effort, self-reflection, and other scary sensations that most people fear, or are too lazy to battle. It's always simpler, after all, to just go with the flow. We are all a work in progress, constantly evolving, at least I believe this to be the case if you are truly living, and not merely existing.

I wish to thank all the readers who have stuck by me for four years. Many have come and gone, some of you I have had the pleasure of meeting in person, however most I know only virtually. Yet there is some sense of connection and recognition after sharing thoughts, views and opinions with you all these years.

I'm sorry I haven't written recently, there has been no motivation. I just returned from a wonderful adventure in Alberta, Canada and Montana, and in about a month will finally embark on my big expedition to the country of Georgia.

I wish you all a pleasant weekend! And thanks again for your support, loyalty, humor and always challenging me - on multiple levels! :)

Originally posted by peacetraveler22 at Gravelly Point Park Arlington, Virginia
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Since childhood I've been fascinated by airplanes. Not in a mechanical or engineering sense, but for the possibility of exploration and human observation. To me airplanes represent freedom, innovation and emotion. On any given flight every human emotion is present. People anxious and excited to see loved ones, meet an important client, close a business deal or arrive at some exotic locale. Conversely, there are sad people leaving family or loved ones, tired business travelers and rude, grouchy people. If you look closely it is sometimes easy to see into which category a particular passenger falls.
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For some people, having a child seems to be the only purpose in life, regardless of whether you can financially care for this creation, or provide a stable environment in which they can develop as a human being. I began to have an interesting discussion with a reader. He grew upset that I made a comment about a young Native American woman who kept having one baby after the other, when she did not have the financial capacity to care for them.

"Why do you feel sad about it? These kids are healthy (because their mom was young when she gave birth). They have enough food. They can play with each other. Why do you think elderly deserve welfare benefits, but children do not?"

First, the kids are not healthy because the mom was young when she gave birth. They are healthy because fellow citizens. and the government, foot the bill for their survival. We have no choice as to whether we are brought into this world, and I agree no child deserves to suffer because of negligent or poor parents. But my focus was not on the children! It was on the parents, who refuse to use any type of birth control and keep breeding like rabbits - with no stable income, future, or job.

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Table for one please!

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There are many things my mother doesn't understand about me, but at the top of the list is the fact I often eat alone at restaurants, go to the movies by myself, and even hop in the car and go on long road journeys in various parts of the USA - all alone. To her, this is scary, odd, and beyond comprehension. It makes sense that someone who married her high school sweetheart at age 19, and has never really been away from him, would feel this way. I have another acquaintance who wanted to see an opera recently and was in desperate search for a date, but no prince came calling. So, she sat at home and whined rather than go it alone.

The reasons I dine alone are mostly practical. First, I'm on an entirely different schedule from the rest of my family and friends. No one is available to join, even if I desired the company. I'm eating my main meal of the day around 5pm, and everyone else is still at work during this time. When I'm too lazy to cook, I never hesitate to go to a local restaurant, request a table for one, and enjoy my meal. It's the same with travel or any other type of entertainment or adventure. At age 43, most of my friends are now married and busy with husbands and family, which means lesser time for friends like me. So, what's a woman to do? :)

I can't relate to those who miss out on so many experiences in life because they are scared of solitude. I once read an article that said if single women stop eating alone at restaurants, we will have no one to feel sorry for. :)

How about you? Do you eat alone, or feel sorry for a woman when you see her sitting all by her lonesome at a table? I think it's always good to have pleasurable company, or share life experiences with a delightful man or woman. However, as usual I'd rather be alone than settle for just "anyone" in my presence to fill space. By the way, I don't recall ever seeing a Russian woman sitting by herself in a restaurant during any of my visits. I'm not talking about cafes, but a proper restaurant where a hostess leads you to a table. I think the only place where I will not sit alone is on a bar stool, although this is certainly a fun social experiment based on past experience. 
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Do you know what it is? I notice it frequently in comments, and communications with foreign friends. Even the most intelligent and proficient speakers of English as a second language often spell the term wrong. The word is "DEFINITELY", and the most common error is to spell it "definAtely", where an "a" is used instead of an "i". Phonetically, this makes sense, and even native English speakers periodically spell the word wrong.

I was reminded of this today when I began to read a post about studying English via Skype lessons. The blogger mentioned all kinds of tenses - present perfect progressive, past perfect, past perfect simple. I must have learned these tenses in school over 20 years ago, but what the hell do they mean? :) I don't even think about them now as a native English speaker, although the tenses are self-explanatory if you contemplate the basic essence of the words. When I studied Russian for a short time, I wasn't concerned about proper grammar or spelling, because the goal was simply to be able to speak basic phrases during travels and communicate with locals in their native tongue. Some things that still confuse me about Russian:Read more...Collapse )

What has changed in five years...

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Today I was reminded by Facebook that I was in Kyiv five years ago today, standing atop a monastery. It was my first visit to Ukraine, and since that time a lot has changed. My Ukrainian friend I was visiting now lives in France. He played an instrumental role in reigniting my passion for travel so many years after I left my job at the airlines. Since then, I've visited 10 new countries and 15 new States here in the USA. There are so many positive emotions locked in my mind from all of these experiences. The people I've encountered along the way, struggles with companions, roads, schedules...all of it a journey for discovery, not only about the world, but myself.

Many personal relationships have shifted - some closer, and some almost extinct. I've slowly let new people into my tight circle, yet toxic people are now banished. I can't say that I'm harsh or unforgiving, but I definitely give people way fewer chances now than I did two decades ago. I think it's a normal process of aging, somehow you look to insulate yourself with a protective layer of humans who support, provide warmth, comfort, security and other positive emotions. For me, these people have always been family and a few close friends. There's no point in wasting time on those who are constantly trying to belittle, tear you down and ignite all types of wildfires in your soul and heart. In youth, I somehow thought I could change people like this, take their hand, and guide them to some sort of light and positivity, but I failed each time. In essence, I think it's impossible to really change another human, although your presence in an individual's life can be the catalyst to facilitate or motivate change. Sometimes for the worse, but hopefully the better.

We can say that life, and everything, is in a constant state of flux - one moment you're floating peacefully on the calm sea, and the next your world is shaken, as if life is constantly hovering over a tectonic plate, or in the midst of some volcano with lava quickly creeping to the edge. For me personally, everything now is calm and fine, but boring. I don't have motivation to write long posts anymore, for several reasons. First, it seems the entire audience has disappeared. Second, there is nothing new to say. After three years of communicating on this platform, almost all of my views are known - about sex, gender, relationships, exploration, Russia....many other topics.  If you have questions which remain unanswered, you can ask me in the comments, and I will express my viewpoint if the inquiry isn't too personal, and I know something about the issue.

This is really just a simple note to let you know I'm alive, as many people have sent me messages. Thank you for your concern, and continued dedication to my stories, thoughts and blog. :) When I feel a burst of creative inspiration, new stories will follow. I still post lots of short notes, thoughts, and travel photos on Facebook. You can find me here. In two weeks, I'll return to Montana and then onward to Alberta, Canada for a quick mountain adventure before the big expedition through Georgia in autumn.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer! Cheers from the USA! :)

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Update on teaching abroad

Some of you have written to ask about my plans to teach English abroad, which I discussed in this post. I was invited for a Skype interview tomorrow, and will let you know what transpires. This is my first interview via the laptop, and it seems strange to me but it's the only option when you're trying to recruit candidates from the other side of the globe, at least for the initial screening interview.

I have no idea what questions they will ask, but it's just an introductory session to learn more about the "Teach & Learn with Georgia" program, what they expect from me, and where I may be placed (in Tbilisi or some remote village). They will discover more about my qualifications, life goals and personality in the process...it's like a date almost, to see if we are compatible. :)

This will be my first time speaking with native Georgians, so let's see what happens. Already there were some challenges in the application process. Email addresses and forms on the official websites of The Georgian Ministry of Education and Science did not work, causing frustration and inefficiency with sending documents and applications, etc. Maybe this is done on purpose, to prepare potential teachers for the challenges they might face if they move to the country.

It's a huge life decision, but it seems the opportunity is one step closer, if I choose to seize it. Lots of balls in the air to try to juggle and balance. Stay tuned...:)

On the Volga...Ples, Russia

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In the Ivanovo region sits a cozy little town called Ples. Full of bright colors, empty streets and lots of birch trees scattered through the forest areas, where walking paths are constructed at the top of the hill. I spent a few hours here at the end of winter last year, when there was still plenty of snow on the ground and the village was almost completely deserted. Only weak, old pensioners walked the icy streets, trying to maneuver through the slippery sidewalks without falling. Let's briefly explore this town through a few snapshots I took.Read more...Collapse )

Happy Birthday America!

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Today Americans begin a festive holiday weekend in honor of the Fourth of July. There was no traffic during the rush hour commute this morning, as most people are already on their way to the beach, or relatives' homes for the big celebrations on Monday. My family spends the holiday the same way every year - at our American style dacha in the forest. About this place, I've already written several times. You can see the big report here.

Huge gatherings and fireworks displays take place in all major U.S. cities, including here in Washington, DC. I never attend these massive public gatherings due to the crowds, and mainly the heat. I feel totally uncomfortable in such environments, and prefer the quiet solitude of nature or small crowds. I doubt recent terrorist attacks will have any detrimental impact, or cause people to avoid these celebrations. I can't understand those who live in constant fear, and avoid activities because they are worried about attacks, or some other tragedy. We must march on, and just be aware of our surroundings. This has always been my mentality.

All small towns light their own fireworks, locals enjoy festivals and colorful parades. American flags wave everywhere! :) This photo was taken during a parade in Fredricksburg, Virginia a few years ago. It's a big holiday for us, full of barbecues with hamburgers and hot dogs, corn on the cob, lots of tasty foods, cold beer and relaxation. I hope I can just sit as a vegetable for a few days - read, get some sleep, and rest my mind which has been too cluttered with heavy thoughts recently.


For everyone in the USA who celebrates - enjoy! And for those abroad, I hope you find a way to celebrate America's birthday somehow from afar. Cheers! :))

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