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). 

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