It’s almost a year since I closed the door of my Irish apartment for the very last time. I didn’t feel ready, with so many things in mind I still wanted or should do, but I also knew I’d never feel ready, so it didn’t really matter that much. I still remember the mix of tiredness (since I foolishly didn’t sleep for my two last nights back there), excitement, and stress.
Moving from one continent to another have something of finality like diving head first from a cliff: you don’t get to go back.
More or less 24 hours later (depending on the time zone), after two flights and a 5-hour-long layover I had because I didn’t want to risk missing the second flight with a shorter one, I crawled out of the Sky Harbor in Phoenix dragging my two big cases and two smaller carry-ons that contained what could be considered close to “all my belongings”, straight into a warm, not-winter-like night.
I got married two weeks after I’ve arrived, in the local courthouse with only a judge and two lovely people (whom I’ll likely never meet again) as our witnesses present. In a way, I feel it was perfect in its intimacy. It might had seem rushed, but after being together for 8 years or so, doubts had never crossed out mind. Also, the legal process required me to marry within 90 days, so waiting longer wouldn’t make much difference anyway. We wanted to file the paperwork and get on with our lives: I had so many things to learn, to explore, to adapt… Little I knew I’d be stuck at home for the next eight months because of the documents’ processing time.
I took that time to pursue my personal projects, mostly writing. I worked on my fantasy novel, but also—when nostalgia hit—I wrote contemporary fantasy set in Ireland. I wrote quite a few short stories too. Then, encouraged by the lovely JR Bee (who took it upon herself to ensure that “stuck at home” doesn’t mean lonely, keeping me company online), I pushed my own doubts aside and made my artwork available for sale. She also inspired me to go back to drawing which became another project of mine.
The change of pace affected my health in a positive way. A dry and warm apartment (something hard to achieve with storage heating system in Ireland) worked miracles on my sinuses, which during my 8 years in Ireland were always on the verge of sinusitis, while regular meals and lots of sleep I always lacked back in Ireland helped me to stop the weight gain I’ve been struggling with for the past few years.
I also started working out regularly which also affected my weight in a positive way. When I arrived to the US, I was at least 20kg (40 pounds) overweight. Now? I haven’t weighed myself in a year, but visually about a third of it is gone (and, to my personal joy, I didn’t have to start dieting). Even though my exercise routine had slipped midway through the year, I’m back at it again, hoping to build it into a habit as stable as my writing one.
I haven’t gone sight-seeing much since Inq works full time and I consider weekends the time for him to relax, but when we had to visit Phoenix for the paperwork-related appointments, we detoured a bit, and I got to see a bit more of my new home, including a very picturesque back road (the one that had a warning “if you dare to go this way, you’re on your own if your car breaks”), and I can tell you this will go into some story one day.
For the same reason, I haven’t seen Grand Canyon yet even though I live almost on its edge, and we plan to let me drive us there when I feel confident enough with my driving. (Yes, I was finally able to start my driving lessons!)
On the bright side, I got to experience my first Turkey Day: even though we don’t have Inq’s family around, we still prepared the bird for Thanksgiving… and were eating it for the next three days.
Food has always been fun for me and Inq, so it was obvious I’d get to try American foods, along with learning various cultural linguistic bits about them. For example steak and shrimp weren’t new to me (though it was the best steak I’ve ate), but now I know to call them “surf&turf” (I won’t bore you with lengthy discussion about the differences between “shrimp” and “prawn”), and “Whatchamacallit” might have been just a chocolate and caramel bar like any other, but hey, it was worth eating for its name only. I already love tacos (Taco Bell used to be a part of the ritual of arriving to Texas), and I added more things to my “like” list: root beer (both alcoholic and non), cream soda, macaroni&cheese, various cheeses (Munster is so yummy!), new ice-cream flavors, and many others I’ll remember as soon as I publish this post.
Cider (or rather “hard cider” in American English) is better in Ireland, but at least I’ve learned the difference: in USA “cider” is just pulpy apple juice, and only “hard” indicates the alcohol content (same goes for “hard lemonade” which is equivalent of bottled cocktails). I also tried Kool Aid and this one goes into my “definite no” box. I wasn’t very fond of elk and bear either.
So was my first year in USA good? I can’t say it wasn’t, and all in all I enjoyed my time here, but at the same time, with being stuck in the bureaucratic limbo for most of the year, I didn’t get to really live here, to explore, to discover. I don’t feel “at home” here yet, but I’m not too concerned about: as much as I loved Ireland, it took me several years to truly settle, and I expect my USA experience to be no different. I guess time will tell.
All pictures were taken by me, so please don’t use them without letting me know first. You can click on each of them for a larger version. You can also visit my Instagram page for more pictures.
Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games.
Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English.
Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.