My First Year in the USA

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 only got glimpses of Arizona as we traveled north, but the dark shapes of hills promised me a landscape I’ve not experienced before, and incoming months had confirmed my first impression.

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

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.

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. portiabridget

    Thank you for that post – I suppose if you don’t feel like running away and screaming after the first year, you’ll accommodate in your new place.The photos are really gorgeous but I am waiting for the Great Canyon. And the Rockies. And maybe also the route 66 too. Have fun! 😀

    1. melfka

      As I told you via Skype, Route 66 is nothing special. We drive it sometimes when we go shopping.
      There you go: 😉
      The Grand Canyon is happening soon. The Rockies might not happen.

  2. J.R.Bee

    Aww, Melfka *hugs* I’m glad I was able to keep you company, you’re good company to keep 🙂

    You’ve had one heck of a ride this past year!

    1. melfka

      I hope you won’t abandon me now, when I’m starting to settle! 😉

      1. J.R.Bee

        Of course not! You’re stuck with me for life now… Unless of course we fall out, in which case boo!

        1. melfka

          I love your fatalistic approach to falling out :D. “If it happens, it happens. Boo, but oh well.” kind of way. 😀

          1. J.R.Bee

            Well, if we fall out future you and I probably will be too annoyed to be overly boo about it, but boo at the thought 😀

  3. Agnieszka Hałas

    Interesting post, lovely landscapes! It’s awesome that moving to Arizona has had a positive effect on your health. You were brave to try Kool-Aid at all, I never had the courage 😀

    1. melfka

      Thanks, Agnieszka :).
      I know some people who like Kool Aid, so I thought “it can’t be that bad”. And it wasn’t horrible, just not nice. 😉

  4. sjhigbee

    Blimey! I cannot quite believe that you have been in the US for a year – doesn’t Time fly? I really enjoyed reading this – it’s such a huge step… I love the photos – it’s got to be almost the total opposite of the lush, beautiful greenery of Ireland, though just as stunning in its own way. I’m delighted your health has improved to the extent it has and wish you well for the years to come. I think you’re right – it takes time to bond with any place and the fact you’re letting it come in its own time is a wise strategy.

    1. melfka

      Thank you for stopping by and I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Yes, Arizona’s landscape is very different from Ireland, but then, Ireland was different from Poland, so I’m somewhat used to that. But I do still miss Ireland. I guess it’ll pass with time.

      1. sjhigbee

        I’m sure it will – a year is no time at all in the scheme of things. I hated living here for a long time because I missed living in Somerset for nearly 3 years and these days I cannot imagine anywhere else…

  5. saraletourneau

    This was a fascinating read, Joanna. I’ve never been to either Ireland or Arizona, but based on what I know and have seen of both parts of the world, they seem so different from one another. But I’m glad that, apart from a few bumps, the move has been mostly a positive one for you and Inq. Especially in the health department. It must be amazing to not have sinus issues to combat so often!

    Looking forward to hearing more about your explorations once you’re out of bureaucratic limbo. And yay for becoming a fan of macaroni and cheese. I have a not-so-secret love for that dish. 🙂

    1. melfka

      Thank you, Sara :). Yes, Ireland and Arizona are quite different, but then, USA is very different from Europe in many apects, so I kind of expected that. Arizona has also very unique landscape: when I had visited Texas in the past, it looked way more familiar in some aspects.
      And yes, being able to forget I have sinuses is great.
      I’m out of the limbo now: I’ve become a permanent resident back in October, so now it’s only the rest of the adaptation process: driving licence, etc.

  6. Clara Bush

    It was fun reading your blog and discovering what newcomers to America find interesting.

    1. melfka

      Thank you, Clara :). I’ve visited before, but living here is an entirely different matter.

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