After returning from West Africa and having my assignment in the Peace Corps terminated, I have felt lost. Similar to the time after I returned from my bike ride and had to figure out where to live and how to support myself. I have lived off my settlement for the last two years off and on.
It did not help that the home I came back to was a living hell. In three days we are leaving and I hope to never set foot in this town again. We are city kids, we belong in a city, not in the burbs. I hope that the move will make it feel more like home. The cooler weather is helping some too.
I have been debating with myself since knowing my termination date. I definitely want to go back, to Africa if possible. I also want to help Richard build up a support system. I have looked into the positions open and found a few in Africa that were Agriculture related. One specifically is developing sustainable urban agriculture. I really want this positions. The benefit with having already been accepted, I have the ability to state my choice in location and jobs.
This has lifted my spirits and helped to refocus my passion. I am looking into taking French lessons and obtaining my Master Composter and Gardener certifications. I also need to read upon urban farming methods in poor soil conditions. I am finding my passion rekindled. I look forward to putting my fingers in the dirt again. I am excited to really embrace my passions. Even though I was excited to teach science, this has me elevated to ecstatic and ready to research a new language and new soil conditions.
In the end, even if I do not get assigned to this spot, the fact that I found my passions again is enough. To know that I can still find excitement and joy is something that I have been hoping to feel. To know that no matter what obstacles come into my path, I can find solutions and embrace joy and life once again.
So as I am getting ready to move and feeling like a huge burden is lifted off my shoulder the neighbors have once again put a dark cloud over my life. Let me recount my weekend. On Friday I walked to the store and met Richard after work. We went shopping and then looked at games for his PS3. We got home late and I made dinner. I do not run the dishwasher after 10 due to the issues that we have with the neighbors. On Saturday I got up and cleaned the kitchen a bit so we could use it when he girls got here. We got up and left around 10 am to pick the girls up.
On the way home we headed to a cave touring place, but changed our minds due to one of the girls not wanting to go. We headed back home and finally got here around 5pm. Richard and H went to find pizza while i stayed behind with G. I went for a swim around 8:30 and then we were in for the rest of the night. On Sunday we got up late. I made some smoothies and the girls played some video games. Eventually we left around 11:30. We headed to a place called Bishops Farm. It was the biggest pumpkin festival I have ever seen in my life. It was crazy. We finally dropped the girls off around 4:30. We headed back and decided to look into leasing a new car.
Once we made it back home, I made dinner of potato pancakes and sausage along with fielding emails about a car deal. I ended up going back outside only once to look for my brand new pedometer, which I lost at some point. I took a flashlight out and looked in the car and along the sidewalk.
This afternoon I received a phone call from the landlord. Apparently the noise nazi called to say I was looking into their windows. I told the person who called me that was nonsense. I try to avoid contact at all times. She said he told her that I was looking into their windows and that he tried to talk to me but I ran away. Anyone that knows me, knows I do not run. I am physically incapable of running. So now I am super paranoid to walk outside, I want to cry and I want to punch him in the face. I also want to call the police and file an anti-harassment order.
Of all the things that go through my mind, the best option was to call the attorney. I just need this put into a record somewhere. The only thing I can think of is that when I was looking for my pedometer he saw me with a flashlight and decided to make me look like a weirdo or a criminal. Frankly he is dealing drugs and my apartment always smells like weed. So on top of everything else, I will be calling the police on a regular basis for the next two weeks. I was just going to try to stick it out, but now I am so pissed that I want them to understand how the system works. See I can cover my tattoos, I can take out my piercings and I can look professional. He cannot, therefore, the law will be tilted on my side, it helps that i am right and he is wrong.
Of all the things I would like to do to get revenge, I mainly just want peace. Revenge is never really a good thing. So I will let the attorney advise me as to what I need to do. I am so sick of this place, I cannot even breath anymore. I just really want to cry myself into a coma.
I am a food snob! I am a kitchen snob! There I said it. I try to only buy organic or from a farmer’s market. I try to not use plastic as much as possible. I try not to buy box foods. I even used to make my own bread, but sadly when I got rid of everything I own the breadmaker was the first thing to go. I would love to take a pasta making class, but that is in the future.
As I pack my stuff to move, the kitchen is typically the last to get boxed. I have suffered so much in this apartment, that I made a decision today to take back my kitchen. I love to be in a kitchen. I love to cook, I love to chop, I love to sip coffee and look at magazines! In two weeks and two days we will be moving to a much more suitable location for us. One that I hope has a sense of community and neighbors who understand living in apartments.
Today I realized that I am missing a few major items in my kitchen. I have no measuring spoons or dry measuring cups. I got very excited to find bamboo measuring tools. I also bought one of those mesh strainers, of all the things I have had in my kitchen, I have never had one of these. I also found a very small mortar and pestle. Since I am cooking for just two it was perfect. Also those smaller tools are great for apartment kitchens.
Last week I bought a rice cooker, my first ever. Man this month is about firsts, I guess. I realized when I returned from Africa that I really missed my juicer, unfortunately part of the issue in this apartment is the noise fascist downstairs. I am terrified to operate my juicer or my blender. I am even hesitant to operate my vacuum. Oh how I look forward to reclaiming my kitchen and my life! The only thing I really need now is a kitchen scale, and maybe a new storage system for left overs. Otherwise I feel very confident that my kitchen is going to become my safe haven again.
As a child my parents would take a trip to Reno almost yearly. I never understood why they chose Reno over Vegas. You never really hear much about Reno. It occurred to me this weekend while we were there that the trips my parents took were likely to a year car show. I suppose there are a few things that Reno has that appeal to some people.
This weekend we had a friend down from Seattle. On Friday we took him into Old Sacramento and checked out the Car Museum. We had lunch and visited a bar, along with finding this wonderful Tall Ship docked up on the River. We strolled along the waterfront and enjoyed the weather. Being from Seattle having 90 degree weather in October is a strange phenomenon for us. In fact the entire time we had a guest we spent most of the days outside.
On Saturday, after a long night of drinking and eating horrible fried foods, I actually signed up for a bike ride to tour urban chickens. Our friend had agreed to get up and drive me to the start point, a 20 mile ride at 7am was not exactly on my agenda. I cannot wait to move so that I can take a shorter ride to start points. While I was riding my bike, the boys were attending a car show in another town. I was so happy to be out on my bike and that I had actually stopped drinking well before the boys did. The whole weekend was pretty much a bender and poor food choices.
In the afternoon we dropped my bike off and packed a bag for a night in Reno. This was my second trip but our guest had never been there. The drive to Reno is beautiful and the biggest benefit of living in Sacramento is that we are 2 hours from several destinations, including Lake Tahoe, San Francisco and Reno. We are about 3 hours from Santa Cruz and 5 hours from LA. I am not a fan of casinos and I do not understand they allure of gambling. Of all my vices, this one I just do not understand. Maybe because it costs not only money but your health. Although all vices do cost in money and health, this one seems to take your soul. Just seeing people who have obviously not been outside in decades is enough to convince me this is not on my agenda. I do not want to retire to spend my life inside a poorly lit casino that smells of old cigars and stale rose-water. To be honest every hotel/casino smelled terrible.
The night was spent drinking and eating and just wandering around. Oh and my all time favorite past-time, collecting quotes of the night! In the course of wandering the hotels we ended up in a parking garage. “We went underground and came up lost!”~RL (names and initials have been changed to protect the guilty) “Don’t have RL put that in his pocket, how is he gonna act creepy, no wait how is he gonna play with himself?”~WP “I wish he would get here with my drink, I ordered it like 2 seconds ago!”~WP “Who decided the restroom stall doors should open into the stall? You have to straddle the nasty toilet to get out! Poor design!”~CC “Wow, I cannot believe you just handed a homeless person a $25 bottle of Champaigne!”~CC
After ditching me, the boys had one more drink, but really unless you are looking to spend huge money, the strip clubs are not really an option, $20 cover 2 drink minimum seemed excessive. Otherwise the shows seem to not run real late, or we were there at the wrong time of year. On Sunday we got up, I got ready and headed down the elevator to grab coffee. The elevator ride was the highlight of the trip! We were on the 27th floor of Circus Circus. I got into the elevator and pushed floor 2. The elevator came down and stopped on 26. So weird, no one was there. The doors closed, the elevator didn’t move and the doors opened again. The light on 2 went out as the elevator was going down. It seemed like a rapid decent and it went all the way to the garage. When it landed it hit hard and went thud! The door opened and I looked wildly at the bellhop waiting at the elevator, the number still said floor 26, and I shouted this elevator appears to be broken. The bellhop looked at me and said holy cow it sure is! This is when i noticed that the elevator floor was about a foot and a half lower than the floor. I got out the door closed and it appeared that the elevator reset itself. I was going to take the escalator up the one floor but it was broken too! I eventually got my coffee and we packed up and took the bags to the car. We checked out of the room and decided to look for a brunch.
The last time I was at Reno we stayed in Tahoe and had brunch in Reno. I was not all that impressed by the food in the casinos. We found another casino and found a restaurant, but there was a wait list of 35 minutes. We thought we would go ahead and wait, but then our friend just needed to get outside. The two times I have been to Reno the strip has been shut down for some sort of festival. Last time it was a biker festival, this time it was Italian. We ended up wandering through it until we found a walking path along the “river”. We walked for a while and ended up finding this lovely cafe that had outdoor seating. We sat outside enjoying the breeze from the river and the sun. The boys both ended up with a caesar salad. I had an Ahi Poke, which was delicious and just the right amount of food.
We ended up driving through Tahoe and spent an hour on the lake, just enjoying the sun. When we got back home we ended up having dinner at an authentic Taqueria just down the street from our apartment. The benefit of being home alone all day is that I wander around the area and find the few bright spots around us. Richard did not know about it, but they both agreed it was a nice place and a great choice.
All in all it was a great weekend, with plenty of food and drink and sun! Next time maybe less food less drink and more sun! After we dropped our friend at the airport we came home and I proceeded to make a fabulous dinner. I made a pot of clean out the fridge soup, I added a savory herb gravy mix to thicken it up and poured it into two pie shells. I boiled up potatoes and cauliflower to make mashed potatoes shredding parmesan cheese. This was smoothed on top of the stew and I baked them until the potatoes were browned. It turned out to be very tasty. All in all it was a wonderful weekend.
I have not posted in quite some time about food or food systems. Partly due to being in Africa, but also having relocated to a place that I saw as the mecca of farmer’s markets and food. I had dreams of being able to ride my bike a few blocks and get fresh local and mostly organic produce on a daily basis. I am a devout believer in farmers and paying them for their sweat. I also believe honestly in sweat equity. I believe in reconnecting ourselves with the Earth. I did not always think this way.
After I lost my job in 2000, I could not get food stamps. I made too much money on unemployment, but not enough to keep paying my mortgage. Had I been able to get food stamps I may have been able to pull myself up, for a while. Growing up my mother was a terrible cook. However, she put what at the time was considered a balanced meal on the table daily. I have hated breakfast cereal since I can remember. Maybe it was because I got up early got ready and then ate this cold mush stuff before walking up the drive to wait for the bus, in the cold. A typical dinner would be a meat item, and she had few to choose from, a veggie, a starch and a salad. We also often had biscuits or dinner rolls, back in the 80’s bread was a staple and dinner was not dinner without it. My mothers meats typically were things like, oven fried chicken, not pieces but she bought a whole chicken and chopped it up, oven fried pork chops, swiss steaks, sausage, which was a treat. My mother at one time worked in a chicken processing plant. She knew exactly how to part a chicken, so buying chicken already pieced was an insult to the cook.
Salad for my mom was, well boring. She cut up iceberg lettuce, whipped up some “Uncle Dan’s” ranch dressing, sliced radishes and sometimes sunflower seeds. When we went to restaurants I had no idea what kind of dressing I liked. I always said “Uncle Dan’s” but apparently that was a brand of make your own at home from a packet. Once in a while in the summer my mom gave us a treat. She discovered “imitation crab meat” and we would have a salad night. Nothing but salad and biscuits for dinner. I think my dad hated those days. Her idea of a vegetable was frozen: peas, corn and beans, sometimes broccoli and cauliflower medley. I thank her for not making us endure canned veggies. I would get excited when we got Rice-a-Roni for dinner. My mother never made rice any other way, but this was a treat since it cost more. Baked potatoes were rare, mashed from a box typical, tater tots were typical as well. Sometimes she made frozen french fries, but they were never as good as restaurant ones.
My mother had her limitations, but she tried. She cooked mostly from scratch save for the potatoes. When I started dating my husband, I had a few dinners with his family. I was introduced to hamburger helper. I was never given spaghetti as a child, my dad once told my mom he hated spaghetti. The reality was that he hated “her” spaghetti. Hamburger Helper was this great introduction to pasta in every meal. It was so easy and so economical. As a young wife and mother I took my cues from both my mom and his mom. Mostly I followed the idea of out of box into a pan from his mom. My mother never allowed me to cook at home, so boxed meals were ideal. My first attempt at making a turkey was interesting. I had no idea that there were plastic bags of parts in the body of the bird. I took the bird out of the freezer rinsed it off and tossed it in a roaster with some water and in the over the night before Thanksgiving. I left it in the oven overnight at 200 degrees. Three hours before dinner I added the veggies and dropped gravy packets in the water surrounding the bird and veggies and turned the temp up to 350 degrees. Imagine my surprise when we cut the bird open to find those melted plastic bags. We all had a great laugh, but to everyone’s surprise the bird was moist all the way through. I had managed to perfect it, even though I had no clue what to do.
This change to boxed foods took its toll on my health. I gained weight and lost interest in doing anything. I even converted to a vegetarian and continued to eat packaged foods. I did this until the year that I read Omnivore’s Dilemma. It was pivotal in my transition to real food. There was also an article that I read in Vegetarian Times, which I would love to reference but I cannot find it online. The premise behind both of these were that we do not really understand our food. We have no idea where it comes from, or how it gets to us. This idea was the catalyst of my desire to go to Grad School.
Going into the Peace Corps, they had warned me that I was possibly going to have to eat meat. As a cultural courtesy, I was willing to eat meat if it was offered to me. I went in with this naive idea that I would be able to get fresh food and amazing produce in the markets. I knew cheese and milk would be difficult, but things like veggies and fruits, I assumed would be plentiful. I knew that there would be things I was unfamiliar with, but I had no idea that my vision was so narrow. You see the industrialized food system has tainted even the small villages in Africa. Liberia imports almost all of its rice from India. I thought I would find wild rice and wild grains, but sadly it was mostly white rice every meal. I thought eggs would be available from local chickens, these were also imported. In a country that is very near famine, I thought that eating veggies would be a staple. I was very wrong.
I was also wrong in my assumptions about California. I thought there would be daily Farmer’s Markets and fruit stands on most blocks. I was so very wrong. Even stranger, in a state that farming is a huge industry, I thought they would know about many of the super foods and be ahead of the curve. I asked a farmer at the weekly market about mustard greens, I have not seen any since I got here. He said no one sold them. I asked him if he even knew what they were? He stated they were weeds and none of the farmers he knew grew them. I was finally able to find some, but I was shocked at the attitude that they were weeds. At least I know weeds are not going to be GMO!
Many years ago I lost over 60 lbs by completely avoiding processed food. I gave up alcohol and biked everywhere. The weight just dropped off, sadly that did not drop me from the obese category. That still stings a bit. Sadly we are a category. We cannot escape it, no matter how good we feel or look we are still just a number on a chart. I am back where I started and have decided to really seek out the same plan again. I need to lose weight, more importantly I need to eat real food.
Today I had a text conversation with a good friend that I miss dearly. To be honest I miss most people from Seattle, so do not feel left out! I had been thinking about the things I miss the most from Seattle. The things that make it home and unique. I told my friend that I missed hipsters the most. They have this snarky attitude and dark demeanor. They also bring art and music into our lives. I am still not certain what the label “hipster’ means, but I am certain I am not cool enough to be one. My friend laughed at me and informed me that she misses rednecks and truck balls! Oh the audacity of that statement.
For those who have no idea, and I confess to massive confusion myself, truck ballz are these incredibly disturbing things people, specifically rednecks hang from the backs of their trucks. The look like a human scrotum and I have no idea what would possess someone to put them on their vehicle. I find it to be immature and of lower intellect. Yet I suppose it is more about the people than the ballz themselves.
My friend then informed me that she is surrounded by liberal hippies and misses republicans. I cannot say that I miss republicans, but I do miss hippies, liberal or not. As far as yuppies, nope do not miss them and their pretentious attitudes. I wonder daily if everyone in my apartment complex is an ex-con? They all seem to have prison tats, so either they served time or they have really crappy ink that they paid money for. I certainly would request my money back! Seriously not one tattoo I have seen around here is remotely good or interesting. It gives me pause when considering getting a new tattoo in the area.
My brother once told me that I was born “white trash” I was never not going to be “white trash”. I nearly punched him in the nose for that. I think you can escape your roots, I believe that you are not destined to repeat patterns from your parents. Then again, I also believe in love, peace and laughter. And my testing conversation, today, made me laugh so hard!
This week I need to catch up with what I need to do with the Peace Corps evacuation. I am still in this strange weird place of “what next?” It is partially driven by fear, but also driven by the unknown situation. Do I want a new assignment? Do I want to wait until I can go back to Liberia? Do I want to postpone my service to get my life in order here? Do I want to bag the whole ordeal for a bit to catch up economically?
These question and my current living situation are driving my inability to do anything at this point. I should get a job, but for how long? Do I want to get a job that a new location will make it difficult to get to? Do I just want to sit back and drain my savings? I also have fallen behind on what to do with the Peace Corps paperwork. Much of that is due to stress and anxiety and some of it has to do with my disorganized mind. I have very little concept of timelines or due dates. I am always behind on things.
Today we gave notice on our apartment. The lady was fairly nice at first. Actually it was far less painful than I thought it would be. Sadly if they had only communicated with us initially all of this could have been avoided. I found out that we totally could have switched apartments, the notice was served to both us and the neighbors, the neighbors had gone to the office and complained about us at the same time we complained about them the last time. I also found out that the neighbors are moving as well. I hope it is not the same day as us. If the landlords had only informed us of these things, we would have completed our lease.
It feels like a huge burden has been lifted. I am hoping that the feelings of dread are going to subside now. I currently feel this burden lifted and a new hope for the future. Facing our problems was easier when we do it together. I need to remember this. A pair going to battle is better than a single person. You are bound to protect each other, to console each other, to find strength in the other when yours is waning.
In my life, I have always been able to ground myself. The most difficult times I have almost always found someone to stand ground with me. Moving to Seattle was the hardest thing I ever did. I moved there knowing only the person I moved with. I had no experience with city driving and I had no idea how to navigate the city. This was by far the scariest move. It did not help that the guy I moved with was a controlling abuser. Moving to California has been hard as well. The difference is that in Seattle I lived in a unit that had common corridors, you passed your neighbors daily. We also spend time outside to avoid being claustrophobic. I made many friends and had a job to go to. I had a way to ground myself. In Cali, I have Richard, but my life consists of just floating though. I thought that living here people would just be more social. The weather begs for people to spend time outside, unfortunately my residential situation is full of people who hide from the world. Instead of experiencing it, they hide from it. I am currently doing the same. I do not want to become someone who hides from the world, but one he seeks out connections with the world, like I was in Seattle and Africa.
Our new place has this major benefit of putting on community events a few times a year. This means that I will meet the neighbors, that there will be more community, and that I will be able to embrace connections outside of my home. I found a few local businesses already and felt so much more at home. Maybe, just maybe I will find a way to ground myself in this new location. What I do know is that the feelings of dread have already begun to subside.