2.06.2009

While I Wasn't Blogging...

I had in mind to post all. the. time. once we moved to Ukraine and tell you all kinds of funny and interesting tidbits about our life overseas. But I started feeling like everything I wrote was only lightly veiled (if at all) complaining.

I didn't feel real positive about anything and I didn't want to do our overseas post and you a disservice by belly-aching all the constant time. In general, I am trying to be more tolerant, and one of the points of living in other parts of the world is to grow from diversity.

But there is sometimes a very thin and unclear line for me between laughing at oddities and inconveniences and mercilessly mocking the hell out of a country and system that is driving me absolutely mad most days. I didn't know where to draw that line in a blog post, and I've mostly just been really blue and frustrated. Perhaps the most difficult thing was trying to understand why everything was so discouraging and so difficult for me when I thought I knew so well what I had signed up for and what I had gotten into.

So my husband "got to" hear it all, and I'm afraid I left a lot unblogged in my effort to not say anything at all unless I could say something halfway nice. And then my husband, longsuffering as he is, got a little weary with my endless murmuring, and a little worried about my persistent glumness, so I turned to my oldest and most reliable escape mechanism - reading. It's a beautiful thing.

For a while I didn't feel like there was anyone I could really talk to, because the other expats here seemed all adjusted and happy and I thought they would just tell me to get over myself. Then a few of my expat friends and bloggy friends started telling me: it takes time. It's OK to have to adjust. Give yourself time. And for the most part, I think that's mostly what it took. Sometimes time is the hardest thing to give oneself, but it's the only thing that will make things better.

So in the time I was giving myself to get my feet on the ground and get a little better perspective, also known as my head-in-the-sand-and-out-of-the-blogosphere time, I read. I was surprised the other day to realize that I've read nearly twenty-five books in a little less than five months.

I've actually gotten on a really great reading roll that I don't really want to get off of, but I've also missed blogging regularly and checking into other people's blogs and lives. I'm starting to feel like myself again and feeling a little more resilient and a little less curmudgeonly. Which is a good thing.

We've got a vacation of a lifetime coming up and I still have some mocking that must be done just so I can feel better, and maybe, just maybe, I can start looking at Kiev through Code Yellow glasses and make it interesting for all of us.

Thanks for hanging in with me!

And just for good measure, to document (mostly for myself) that I really did do something productive besides gripe, here's the list of books I've read since coming to Kiev, in case you'd like a little glimpse into my coping... (Truly, feel free to skip to the end, unless you like this sort of list thing...)

The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
- I have a whole post (comparative essay) in my mind about this book and one of my favorite Disney movies, "Meet the Robinsons." Let me know if that interests you. :)

The Apple That Astonished Paris, Billy Collins
- I want every single one of his books of poetry. If you haven't read any, treat yourself.

It's A Boy!, Michael Thompson and Teresa Barker
- Indispensable resource for parenting boys. Heaven knows I need it. Highly recommend it for evenhanded, reasonable and helpful insights and tips for every age of a boy.

Antigua and My Life Before, Marcela Serrano
- I was actually inspired to pick this one up because one of my new friends, Christine in Istanbul, loves Latin literature. There were parts of this one that I thought were beauutiful, but I don't think I really caught the depth that was intended. Maybe it was lost in the translation? Christine, have you ever read it?

The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory
- The story is interesting; I'm always a fan of historical fiction. But the dialogues had too much modern flavor and the bawdiness kinda put me off.

Mansfield Park, Jane Austen
- Finally grew to love Fanny Price as Jane Austen wrote her. She's probably the most real-life of characters, when it comes right down to it.

No One Cares What You Had For Lunch, Margaret Mason
- Funny, of course, especially if you know Mason's blog as well. Some of the excerpts made me bust a gut laughing, in fact. Some great ideas for making a blog sing. Let's see if I can put any of them into action...

Sea Glass, Anita Shreve
- Some really beautiful passages and a nice bit of historical fiction about an era and place I know little about (Maine in the 1930s) but a very sudden and sad climax. Still, things to think about.

Could You? Would You?, Trudy White
- A little book of questions perhaps meant for children, but I liked some of the things the questions made me consider. And Henry loved me to ask him the questions - it actually made me see how asking a child what he thinks or what he imagines can make him feel like a million bucks.

Bleak House, Charles Dickens
- Love it. Not as much as Great Expectations, perhaps, but wonderful, wonderful.

The Zookeeper's Wife, Diane Ackerman
- Didn't live up to my expectations, mostly because I was expecting a historical account and it was more saturated with a naturalist's perspective on animals. There were some amazing observations and it is a fascinating World War II story that made me really want to visit Poland, but the chronology and the conclusion really frustrated my historian's sensibilities.

Travels With Herodotus, Ryszard Kapuscinski
- Expat friends, this is a must read. And if you can pick up Herodotus, try him out, too. Fabulous observations, poignant glimpses into world travel, and succinct and thoughtful insights into human nature.

The Last Time They Met, Anita Shreve
- Picked this one up after reading Sea Glass because she really does have a poetic way of putting things without making it feel contrived. However, I felt completely and totally cheated at the end of this one. Perhaps that was Shreve's intent and the whole point of the story, but it made me mad.

Beowulf
- Just to say I read it. And now I can. But it didn't change my life like you'd think a legendary ancient poem might.

The Life of Our Lord, Charles Dickens
- Lesser known and sweet. I like the simple telling of the life of Christ.

Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
- Between this and War and Peace a person can get a pretty perfect picture of the underpinnings of Slavic culture - even before Stalin, these people's culture was not necessarily Western-oriented, as so many people (still) tend to believe. Aside from that, Anna Karenina provides an amazing view of love, jealousy, society's (double) standards, and despair. One of those books that is so depressing it makes your life feel really wonderful.

My Antonia, Willa Cather
- One of those books that is so uplifting and redeeming that it makes you love everything that is loving and generous and wholesome. I could read it a million times.

Hard Times, Charles Dickens
- A little too melodramatic for me. Very different from the other Dickens I've read - maybe more bite to the satire? But I did end up quite enjoying the story and, as always, reveling in Dickens' astuteness and how much is the same now as it was in 19th Century Britain.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
- A new all-time favorite. Never read it, never even knew what it was about and just ordered it on a whim, really. Oh, but it's wonderful. You need to read it, you really do.

Sonnets, William Shakespeare
- Many I've never read before. Interesting how different things become meaningful that I might have bypassed as a teenager or younger single woman. Some of the best to me this time were in the first twenty or thirty, which are about having children so that you never die. A beautiful idea.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon
- Kind-of a grown up Joey Pigza. I think I liked Joey Pigza more, but this is a fun quick read and I catch myself thinking about random mathematical things and the stress on a marriage caused by children with special needs because of this book.

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd
- Enjoyed the read, but I think it was too hyped for me to not be more critical than I normally would be. Even so, I'm still interested in seeing the movie. Have you seen it yet? BTW - in the book the heroine has black curly hair. Dakota Fanning does not. Hmmmm.

Mothering With Spiritual Power, Debra Woods
- I really liked the way Woods coordinated challenges in her personal family life with things in the Book of Mormon. These were things that I've read so many times before, but never connected them with mothering until now. I would have like a little more "real"ness sometimes, but overall, I'm glad I picked this one up.

Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis
-David read this a few years ago and said it was strange. I read it and LOVED it. I think it's a woman thing. It's an ancient myth retold and C.S. Lewis is a great person to take something like that and make it amazing and rich. This is different from a lot of Lewis - you should check it out.

Lonely Planet Guide to Ukraine
- I'm a travel guide junkie. Ever since the San Francisco guide I bought years ago that described a hotel room as "excessively floral" and when my mom and I stayed there, that was the only way the room could be described. And I loved it. So few things in this world are excessively floral. But I digress. I really didn't read this guide cover to cover, but I at least found some great things that we will see before we leave this place. Also, I like the Lonely Planet perspective because they aren't afraid to tongue-in-cheek make fun of the natives just a bit. I find it refreshing.

Bradt Guide to Ukraine, Drew Evans
- Drew Evans served a mission here just before I did and has spent a lot of time here touring and working since then. He is vastly knowledgeable and the history and culture sections of this guide are awesome. I did really read almost every page of this guide. Except the nightlife stuff. I have no nightlife. In any city. But I am excited to write in to Bradt about a restaurant we went to a couple weeks ago, not found in this guide. It should be included just for interest's sake.

Frommer's Guide to Egypt
- I canNOT wait. We are staying in a hotel recommended in this guide, right by the Pyramids. The hotel and the pyramids are both, incidentally, listed in 1000 Places to See Before You Die. We are going to Egypt...We are going to Egypt...We are going to Egypt...(do the chachacha with me now!) Also love the culture and helpful hints section of this book. Did I mention that I can't wait?

11 comments:

Sir Nottaguy-Imadad said...

If you like historical fiction, allow me to reccomend the series "The A.D. Chronicles" by Bodie Thoene. They take the stories we've read over & over in the Gospels and fleshes the stories out while keeping true to the account. My wife got me started and they are hard to put down.

Anne said...

Wow, Traci, we need to set up a book swap of some kind or something! My favorite historical fiction author is Guy Gavriel Kay, who mainly does poetry. His novels involve a little fantasy which makes them different but refreshingly so. My favorite is The Sarantine Mosaic, which involves chariot racing and stained glass artwork - I will loan both books to you if you are interested ... especially if you want to loan me any of the following:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
No One Cares What You Had For Lunch, Margaret Mason
Travels With Herodotus, Ryszard Kapuscinski
Mothering With Spiritual Power, Debra Woods

By the way, I like reading to cope too - I think it drives Aaron nuts that I can disappear so completely sometimes. I better go place that order on Amazon so my next escape is not so distant...

Janelle said...

I'm so glad you are feeling better! And bless your husband for being understanding, that's the best.

I don't think I've read anything on your list and I'm just getting into a good reading roll so I might pick a few from your list-thanks!

MommyJ said...

I've read quite a few of those... minus all the ones about the ukraine...

Your endurance amazes me... with all the kids AND a new culture...

I would be excited about egypt too.

megachick said...

25 books in 5 months?? with kids at home?? that's impressive. it's even more impressive after seeing some of the tomes in your list. i haven't read that much in a loong time. it seems like the only time i get to read these days is on the cardio equipment.

Amanda said...

Wow, you are quite the reader. Perhaps I should borrow a few of your books, I love historical fiction.

I'm sorry you've had such a hard time, and that I couldn't (or didn't) help more. I was exactly the same last year, it took me about 5 months. I was miserable and that frustrated me because I thought I knew what I was getting into as well. I do agree that time is probably the best thing, but definitely not the easiest.

Oh, and "Meet the Robinsons" is one of my favorites, too.

Bunsy said...

I'd love to hear what you have to say about "The Sun Also Rises". And no, I haven't read that "Antigua. . ." book, but you are probably right about the lost in translation thing. I'd love to read it in Spanish. How many more days until you go to Egypt? How long are you staying? You should write a post about what you are planning to do. There is a blog by an american couple living in Cairo. Check it out. heissatopia.blogspot.com I think. If it doesn't work, let me know and I'll check on it. Have a great time!

Donna said...

Your friends are right - it does take time to adjust. Don't worry about it. And enjoy the reading... sounds fun.

NOBODY said...

DUDE! How'd you read that much? I'm jealous.

Okay, I've got a couple on my to-read list. You need to go on Goodreads. It's great for tracking and getting ideas. It's changed my life. I never have to wish I had a good book to read. I just go look up my to-read list.

Curious Incident is on my to-read list.

I loved Boleyn Girl. We already discussed it briefly though. I think I like bawdy. Tsk, tsk.

I read an Anita Shreve book in the last few months. I had the EXACT same feeling at the end, I felt cheated at the end. All in all, I did not enjoy it.

And uh, HAVEN'T you read My Antonia a million times? I think soooooooooooooo

Joeli said...

Books and lists of books? We really ARE sisters!!
I'm reading My Antonia right now actually. Packed it a couple weeks ago and started reading it (for about the 8th time) the minute I unpacked it last week.... It never gets old. The book's motto is my motto - Optima dies prima fugit. Love it.
And I've sticky-noted some books from your list that I want to read. I must be in a constant stage of coping since I'm never NOT reading... Books were made for natural escapists like us.

melanie l said...

Amazing what all you have read...and inspiring. If you can do all that, raise two kids and live in a new country all of my excuses seem pretty lame. And glad you are adjusting. Your husband and friends are right, it takes time and patience. I wish I were going back to visit Egypt again, but will look forward to hearing about it again through your blog.