A Labor Day Weekend in Bullet Points

  • I don’t feel like writing a traditional, proper posts with paragraphs because I’m tired, so I thought I’d use bullet points instead. I didn’t sleep well last night, so I’ve been tired all day.
  • I didn’t really do anything for Labor Day Weekend and it was kind of glorious. I mainly lounged around and read. In fact, I binge-read a Michael Crichton book (Sphere) because I basically could not put it down. I also needed to vacuum but I didn’t get around to that, but it’s no big loss. 😉
  • The weather here has been gorgeous for the past several days. Very low humidity, which is amazing. I’m always surprised at how much humidity can ruin an otherwise nice day.
  • I went on a trip to Arizona recently (last weekend, including Monday and Tuesday as well, making it a long weekend). I was so tired that I slept for eleven hours on Friday night. I will post pictures at some point—I haven’t even gone through all the ones I took on my phone! But rest assured I plan to create a photo gallery.
  • I haven’t been writing fiction very much lately, so I’m going to go work on a novel after I type this post. I also have an idea for a historical fiction detective story that I’m eager to brainstorm and write. I always brainstorm with a pen and paper—because I’m old-fashioned like that—and it can be really relaxing to just sit and handwrite.
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My First Business Trip

Okay, the title of this post is a little bit misleading. This wasn’t my first business trip—the trip to New York in 2015 that I forgot to blog about was my first business trip—but this was my first trip with my current company.

The city by night after we arrived

Two of my coworkers and I went to a major city in the southeastern US. We ate some fabulous food, which was great. My prior company had a limit of what you could spend per day on meals. I think it was $25 or $35, which isn’t very much for a major city. My current company doesn’t have that. We are asked to “use judgment” when choosing where to eat, which I interpreted to mean that the five star restaurant I really wanted to go to was off-limits. Within reason, though, we could eat anything we wanted. Swiping the corporate card was very satisfying. 😉

However, the highlight of this trip was the hotel. We stayed in a Four Seasons, which was a first for me. I’ve wanted to stay in one for a while. Allow me to explain.

Several years ago, I started writing a crime thriller. In one of the scenes at the beginning, my intrepid protagonist gets to stay in a Four Seasons with her wealthy cousin (the cousin’s wealth greatly ties into the crime aspect of the book). I stopped working on the book for a while, then came back to it in 2015 and finished it. In preliminary edits, I ended up cutting the Four Seasons scenes—too much backstory—but those scenes still had been fun to write and I harbored a secret desire to stay in a Four Seasons. (Also, that book is one of my favorites that I’ve written so far, so I really need to go back and give it a proper editing and try to sell it to a publisher.)

Anyway, who would have guessed that years later, I would be able to stay in a Four Seasons? It was a very neat experience and I do have photographic evidence to share with you.

Here’s the hotel room: the first photo is at night after we arrived and the second is during the day.

The bathroom was quite luxurious, so I had to photograph that as well.

That’s a five-star toilet right there.

And that, my friends, was my experience at the Four Seasons. I ate the restaurant one morning for breakfast, which was decidedly lackluster, so I went to a local bakery the other mornings. Of course, the whole time I was there working and eating with my coworkers, I kept thinking of the book I wrote and how my trip wasn’t just an ordinary business trip. It doubled as book research, a fact I’m sure all my fellow fiction writers will appreciate.

The U.S. Through the Eyes of a Foreigner

As you may know, I read a bunch of Russian craft blogs. I might even be addicted to them. I love crafts (specifically knitting and crocheting) and I love Russian, so they’re great fun for me to read.

Last week, Nastenka at Creative Living wrote a lovely post, all in Russian, about a recent trip she took to California. (She lives in Moscow.) It’s so interesting to see what someone who wasn’t born and raised here thinks about my country. It’s even more fascinating to see what a non-native English speaker thinks. I’m not sure how much English Nastenka speaks, but she definitely knows some since her blog is peppered with it. (Настенька, если вы хотите говорить по-русски со мной, я могу помочь вам!) Anyway, it looks like it was a good trip. Getting the visa was annoying because the government website is stupid and makes the connection time out before you can finish filling out the application, she says. She ended up getting a three-year visa, though, which is more time than I’ve ever had on a Russian visa!

She landed in San Francisco and rented a cute red car. She visited Stanford, downtown San Francisco, the piers with the sea lions, and rode a cable car. (I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I had to look that up in English. I couldn’t think of the English word for трамвай for the life of me!) All in all, it looks like a nice trip, if a bit short. The flight here and back to Russia is so ridiculously long that it eats entire days of the trip, unfortunately.

Check out Nastenka’s photos of her trip here! Yes, the entire post is in Russian, but just keep scrolling and you’ll see photos.

A Trip To Arizona

Dear readers, I have been remiss in my blogging. Earlier today when I walked past a car with Arizona license plates (I don’t live in Arizona, so I don’t see that very often), I was reminded of a trip I took to Arizona last year that I never told you about. I went to Tucson for a few days and had a great time. Here’s some photographic evidence of the trip.

Tucson 1 This is a cactus in the hotel parking lot. I’ve lived east of the Mississippi River my entire life (except for college and grad school, but I don’t know if that counts because I knew it was temporary), so seeing all the cacti was kind of amazing. There were so many, everywhere! There was one particularly fat one by the side of the road that blocked my view as I tried to make a right turn. It may not sound that funny when I write it, but trust me, I was completely cracking up in the car when it happened. I wish I’d been able to get a photo of the cactus, but unfortunately, driving and taking pictures with my phone do not mix…

Tucson 2

There’s another view of the hotel parking lot. I don’t usually think of hotel parking lots as particularly exciting, but I’m telling you, the cacti made it very fascinating.

Of course, a trip wouldn’t be complete without shopping, so I went to the mall one afternoon. It took me forever to get there because of all the lights. I think there was a way to get there on the interstate (I-10 if I remember correctly) but I was too unmotivated to figure it out. The mall was really nice. I bought a drink at Starbucks and wandered around for a while.

Tucson mall

My one piece of advice to you if you want to move to Tucson is this: do not, I repeat, do not live anywhere near the Air Force Base. My hotel was near the Air Force Base and believe me, those planes are LOUD. The first time I heard one, I had just stepped outside to walk to my car and I thought we were under attack or something! Trust me, you don’t want to be anywhere close to those planes when they’re flying. I do have to admit, though, that they were pretty cool to see. I wish I’d been able to get a few pictures.

Anyway, as a result of this trip I can’t wait to go back to Arizona. I’d actually love to move there, but unfortunately there seems to be a lack of jobs in my field. Hopefully I’ll get lucky and something will open up in the next few years so I can move out there. And then I can post cactus pictures on my blog all the time until all my readers are sick of them. 😉

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Note: I’ve tried to create a little gallery of these photos plus two extras (also taken in the hotel parking lot) using some nifty WordPress features. I hope it actually worked!

There is a Bar in Jerusalem Called ‘Bar Putin’

The younger crowd frequents Bar Putin in Jerusalem, where the walls are decorated with photos of the man himself, as well as advertisements for Soviet champagne and vintage Communist Party posters.

From this article in the New York Times

I’m ready to hop on an El Al flight right now so I can go to this bar! It sounds just like my cup of tea, as they say.

I Miss London

I so desperately miss this city right now. Anyone want to buy me a lavish Christmas present, i.e. a plane ticket to Heathrow?

The story behind the photo: in February of this year, I went to see Russian Minister Sergei Lavrov speak at the London School of Economics. His speech was in the morning and was over by 11 or 12, so I spent the rest of the day wandering the city by myself, which is how I discovered that darling antique shop in west London. My friend R. loves reindeer, so of course I had to take a photo.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your own consent”

Ah, Eleanor Roosevelt. The title of this post is a quote often attributed to her and it’s one of my favorite quotes.

If you read some of the more popular language learning blogs, you probably have seen the latest post by a certain European language-learner (to be precise, he’s Irish) castigating the United States of America. Here’s the thing: I am all for constructive criticism, but it bothers me that it is fashionable to criticize the United States and not other countries. Sure, the US is not perfect, but trust me, there are much, much worse places to live, and every country has its own problems, to an extent.

Why can’t we (and by we, I mean people of all nationalities) focus more on the positives encountered when traveling, instead of the negatives? I could write a blog post about the things I hate about Russia and Ukraine, but I much prefer to focus on all the lovely buildings and cities I have seen and all the wonderful people I met who encouraged me back when I spoke very poor Russian. I adored my time in Russia and Ukraine and I simply cannot wait to go back, despite some of the annoyances I encountered.

Likewise, I could write quite a few posts on things I hated in England, but what purpose would that serve? I could tell you about how some of my fellow classmates looked down on me for not being British and for choosing not to go out binge drinking every night of the week. I could rant about that time I was on the Tube in London at rush hour and I barely made it on the train because people kept shoving so rudely. I could mention the people who said nasty things about the United States when they found out I am American. Instead, I choose to remember and focus on my close friend J., who was (and is) always as dedicated to her academics as I am and who offered invaluable support during my year abroad, and G., a lovely Welsh girl who used to cheer me up every time I saw her. Being in London at rush hour was a very fun and invaluable experience, as I have never lived in a city so big or properly experienced rush hour. And for every British person who said something nasty about the United States, there was another who was genuinely interested in what it is like to live here. My friend C. once confessed to me that she desperately wants to come to the US because “America’s so cool.” My friend L. has never been here either and loved peppering me with questions (that I was happy to answer, of course) about life here, such as whether all of us own guns, if we have to show our passports to cross state lines, and what the healthcare system is like.

I do not understand writing an epic rant about why you hate a country so much. If you truly loathe it and have such a bad time visiting, here’s a novel idea: don’t travel to the offending country. It’s really that simple.

The most galling thing of all about the epic rant that inspired this post is one of the author’s criticisms of the United States is that we smile too much. First off, who is to say that smiling a lot or not smiling at all (a cultural practice) is wrong? I do smile a lot, but that is because I am happy. I smile while walking to class because I’m usually going to Russian, and that makes me happy. I smile in Russian because I love learning grammar and new phrases. I smile in my history class because my professor loves his speciality as much as I love mine and his enthusiasm is contagious. I smile in my seminar class because I love it. (But to be honest, I don’t always smile in psychology. My psych professor talks really, really fast and I’m usually worrying that I am not getting everything down.)

Secondly, I think it’s really rich to criticize a whole nation for smiling too much when you’re a person grinning like a maniac in almost every single photo on your website. Seems more than a bit hypocritical, does it not?

If you have no idea what blog inspired this little rant, and you’re very curious, let me know in the comments. As loath as I am to link to said individual, I’ll probably break down and tell you.