Saturday, October 30, 2010

The 4-Stage New City Theory

Here I am: San Francisco, CA. I landed a job as an Account Manager in an ad agency (yay!) and made the big move. The past two months have been total chaos - but I'm really making progress on the life project. So I got philosophical about it:

In the past 3 years I’ve lived in 11 places. Yup, I’m ready to get settled in and stay in one spot now. Being someone who has relocated to a new city many times, I’ve discovered that there are four stages to adjusting to a new place.

Stage 1: Love (1 to 3 months)

When you first arrive everything is new and exciting and amazing. It’s like being a tourist; for a short while you don’t have to notice anything negative and you don’t want to. You want to fall in love and there is so much to intake that you only bother processing the things you like. So many delicious places to eat! So much to explore! To see! To do! This is an adventure; it’s so exciting!

Stage 2: Hate (1 to 3 months)

Suddenly you realize that you can’t leave. You’re stuck in this place and (gasp!) it’s not perfect. You notice the dirty, the ugly and the inconvenient. You get a terrible haircut and miss all the little nuances that made the last place you lived special. You also begin to process the realities of your life and your situation. This isn’t a vacation nor an adventure: it’s real life. Boo. 

Stage 3: Adjust (6 to 9 months)

You process your love and your hate. You learn to get around. You find a doctor, a hairstylist, a favorite coffee shop and your preferred bar. You learn how you personally fit into your new world and develop routines to make it comfortable. You nest into a home and begin to craft a social network. Hopefully you’ve got a job and you start to get the hang of it as well. 

Stage 4: Thrive (Forever)

You’ve accepted the imperfect and figured out how your world functions. Now you’re ready to embrace the things that are unique and special about your city. This is when you find hidden gems and become a city guru. When people come to visit, you know all the cool spots and can play tour guide. You've got a social network now, and maybe a relationship. Life is good.

I’ve found that stages 1-3 always happen. Stage 4? Not always. You can adjust to a place and never really thrive there. That was me in Orange County. Yeah, I lived there for 2 years and had a life. Did I ever really start liking it? Nope. Argentina, on the other hand, was amazing for me. I got to do each stage in vivid color and found my groove.

I do recommend that you never leave a place in the Hate stage. You really have to give a city at least 6 months to a year in order to judge if it could be right for you.

Right now I'm optimistic about my move, but it takes time. There have been some overwhelming parts and I'm probably somewhere between Love and Hate right now and trying to be patient while I adjust. Life in SF has massive potential.

This 4-Stage New City Theory is based on my personal experience and has no real sociological foundation, so I’m curious to hear what you think. Have you experienced the same stages when adjusting to a new life?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Job hunting is like dating.

Do they like me? Do I like them? Are we a good fit? Could this be the "the one?

The correlation between job hunting and dating struck me as I fretted over the fact that I didn't receive an offer post-interview last week. The truth of the matter? It wasn't the right fit. Maybe 80%. That's not good enough, self! I'm looking for a job that meets all my requirements. So why did I wait by the phone hoping for a call? It's basic human instinct: we want people to want us. Despite the fact that I didn't want that job I didn't want them to reject me. Oh, no. I wanted to be in control of my own destiny and choose to reject the offer. Classic dating story.

Since the job hunting/dating correlation is so vivid (at least in my mind) I've decided to continue the logic and apply some great dating advice to my job hunting. For example:
  • If they're not interested in you, it wasn't meant to be (apply advice to example above). It's not fun to hear "no" but we must make peace with reality and bravely accept rejection. If my prospective new employer isn't thrilled to have me on board, well… that's not where I'm meant to be… or where I want to be. I'm all about the situation where we're both excited I got the job.
  • Be yourself. So maybe I could charm an interviewer and tell them stories about imaginary feats. First of all, I'm a bad liar so that won't work. Second, if it did, I'd get caught as soon as the job began. Just like when you start dating: after a couple of months dirty secrets start coming out. It's only a matter of time. Be yourself from the beginning! Then it's much easier to identify a good match when it exists.
  • Be patient. Desperation is your worst enemy; be it the job hunt or the romantic chase. Think about how many people jump at the first offer and end up in a sub-par relationship. Like Mom always told you, just keep putting yourself out there and the right one will come along eventually. For me, this advice has been applicable: Since that job passed me up I've discovered other options with excellent potential. What if I had received an offer? What if I'd said "yes" out of desperation? WHERE would I be now? Headed for a break-up secondary job hunt in a year. Nope, better to wait for the right fit to come along so you can form a healthy long-term relationship.
What other pieces of dating advice apply to job hunting? I have a feeling this could just go on and on…

Monday, August 9, 2010

Patriotism lives in my iPod.

Is there anything more red, white and blue American than country music? No. Nothing. Not peanut butter, not hamburgers. Country music represents the absolute essence of my personal patriotism.

I'm not a typical country music fan. See, I'm a city girl. However, despite the living locations I've chosen over the past 10 years, I'm originally from small-town America: Redding CA. That's pure NorCal. Here people drive pick-up trucks, talk about their horses and are proud of their prize cows. At least 4 of my relatives have chickens running around on their properties. Wearing Wanglers, boots and a shiny gold belt buckle is not a fashion crime; in fact you might get complimented. So, if you consider my roots I feel I have a genuine claim to be a country music fan.

It all started with Willie Nelson. When I was a little girl my Mom used to cue up "Stardust" whenever we departed for a road trip. I've got a nostalgic love for Willie now: in fact, when I lived in Argentina he made me cry. Actually, when I lived in Argentina most country music made me cry. That's because country music simply doesn't exist outside of the USA. The only way I would hear Willie or Shania or Sugarland was via my own personal importation. On days when I felt extra homesick, I'd navigate my iPod to a country mix while hustling through the streets of Buenos Aires. In those moments, I'd feel like my own culture flowed through me and gave me definition. No matter where I am, what language I speak or how I'm dressed some things will never change: I'm an American. And I've got an iPod full of country music to prove it.

Last week I had the great pleasure of attending a Toby Keith (and Trace Adkins!) concert. First of all, it was a blast because I went with my fantastic cousin Keri and made a couple new friends. Second, it was a bit of a personal celebration for me. I think that going to a country concert is about the most patriotic activity I've ever participated in.

We sat in the back of the pick-up truck tailgating and drinking whiskey while watching cutoff blue jeans and cowboy hats stroll by. But the most beautiful moment of the night was the finale: at the end of the concert Toby sang "Courtesy of the red, white, and blue" and suddenly a burst of flag-themed confetti flowed through the sky on the cool, dry NorCal breeze. It was a beautiful moment: Standing with my arms around my friends, listening to that deep voice singing about the USA I felt grateful. These are my roots and this is my culture, and I'm proud to admit I'm a country music fan. It might just be the most patriotic thing about me!

Monday, August 2, 2010

El Diccionario: an Argentine vocab compilation

Working in an office filled with Argentines for two years meant I received a unique vocabulary expansion opportunity. Since I am a curious human being, I was always asking questions and attempting to understand the chatter taking place around me. As a result, I discovered I was expanding my vocabulary daily. In order to remember the random things I learned, I began compiling a dictionary. The majority were slang phrases and a large percentage were, um, uncouth. Some were just plain odd. I mean, no one teaches you that having "crocodiles in your pockets" means you're a cheapscate in Spanish class.

Cleaning out my work files the other day I stumbled across "El diccionario" and thought I'd share. Just for fun, here's the clean(ish) version:

Chasco = gag gift
Puntillista = meticulous/fussy in a good way
Prolija = precise, put-together, perfectionistic
Mañosa = meticulous in a bad way, control freak
Copada = Cool
Dar bola = pay attention
Telgopor = polyfan = poliestireno =Styrofoam
Gruñóna = grumpy
Autobomba = self-propoganda
Bombacha = girl undies
"Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres" = "Tell me who you hang out with and I'll tell you who you are"
Zapar = jamming (only with music)
Caño = pole
Zanja = ditch
Cambalache = kitch
Cachetazo = slap
Cachete = cheek
Entrometer = meddle, interfere, intrude, barge in
Bostezar = Yawn
“No es grupo” = no es mentira = it's not a lie
Sigla = Acronym
Codito/Amarete = cheap or Gaista = Jew
Cocodrilos en el bolsillo = crocodiles in your pocket (cheap)
Plomo = “staff” at a concert or an insistent person or a boring item
Lamer = to lick
Camionera = truck driver’s mouth (for a girl)
Hueca = Hollow
Huevadas o coludes = idiotices
Alcahuete / Buchon = tattle tale
Versero = liar, able to speak in lyrical, lying verse
Una pinturita = something that works really well/is great
Calzones = men’s undies
En Babia = spaced out, like you mentally went to Babylon and got lost
Arropar = cover yourself or to cuddle
Rrogar = to beg
Clueca = body doesn’t work right anymore / old and broken-ish
Estoy subido en una palmera = mentally hanging out in a palm tree = in my own little world
Carajo = ship lookout
Te manda al carajo = they sent you on a wild goose chase
Fuiste al carajo = got lost in nowhere
Erizar = to make stand on end
Bochinche = lotsa noise
Que cara de orto tenés! = you've got a pissed off face
Forro = person who doesn’t have any value (this is quite rude)
Fogoso = hot in bed (meow)
Zafa = in the middle
Mocos: Boogers
Metejon = someone you like, a "crush"

Want the dirty version? Just ask. (Although most of you who would care probably have heard it all already, jaja!)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Exploring: DC/VA/MD

I’m somewhere exotic right now: Arlington, Virginia. Ok, so that’s not exotic like Argentina, but when you’re from California this opposing coast is a whole new world ripe for exploration. Arlington is part of the greater Washington DC area, so I’ve been poking around seeing some of the iconic tourist attractions our country offers.

Arlington National Cemetery
is beautiful, stoic and filled me with curiosity. If only those graves could tell their heroic stories. For some reason I find cemeteries to be slightly magical; they have a cool nostalgia– a reminder that these bodies are destructible shells simply containing human essence.

On the 4th of July I was able to catch up with Daniel and Jihee: two former co-workers from my days in the OC, still good friends of mine. They recently bought a condo in DC and had a great day exploring their neighborhood. After a scrumptious brunch at the Tabard Inn we visited the National Cathedral. Since I’ve explored cathedrals in Italy and Spain it shocked me by being so new. I’ve never seen gothic architecture in such perfect condition before. That night made an awesome charcuterie dinner and snuck wine up to their rooftop in plastic cups while watching a gorgeous fireworks show. Afterwards, we could see tiny explosions along the horizon in all directions for hours. I saw fireworks in three states: DC, Maryland and Virgina all in one rooftop experience. Super cool!

Jihee and Daniel also enticed me to visit Old Town Alexandria, VA which is absolutely charming. It’s gigantic as well! I’ve never seen an old, quaint brick downtown like that take up so much real estate and be so functional. We participated in happy hour at Vermillion, which had an upbeat swanky atmosphere and great prices on eclectic, fun munchies. Then we tried Brabo, an unpretentious little wine bar where we were happily surprised by the Yalumba Shiraz and Viognier blend. I’ve never tried those particular grapes together and it was delightful. Especially when enjoyed with such good company.

My host here in DC, Brian, has been taking me to an assortment of delicious eating establishments and fun happy hours as well. I had to be rolled out of Ray’s the Steaks after consuming a decadent NY strip the size of my head. And I couldn’t help but be impressed with Wacky Wednesdays at Mister Day’s sport's bar where they serve $2 beers and the best $2 nachos imaginable. The “love love love” review goes to Tallula: an enchanting restaurant/wine bar right around the corner from Brian’s house. If I lived here I’d be a regular. Amazing food paired with the perfect atmosphere + an extensive wine list makes it a great choice. I also have to comment on the service: we were debating a couple wine choices and our server brought us a flight for tastings to help us decide. It’s those extra details like nuttela-covered mini-donuts delivered with your bill that create favorites.

Brian has also been introducing me to baseball. We went to Baltimore, MD a few weeks ago and caught an Oriole’s game at the historic Camden Yards, an old factory that’s now a gorgeous stadium. I have to admit I may have liked Baltimore’s National Aquarium even better, though. It was by far one of the best aquariums I’ve ever visited, with a gigantic shark tank and rad jelly fish. In contrast to Camden Yards, we also attended a National’s game, held at the Nationals Park Stadium here in DC, which is brand new and sparkling. Personally, I preferred the brick charm of Camden Yards, but if there’s peanuts and beer you can talk me into either!

Finally, I managed to secure a tour of the US Capitol building to partake in a bit of traditional tourism. It was my only real official DC tour and I loved seeing the House of Representatives up close. I didn’t do enough of the museum/monument viewing, so I'm slightly guilty as my return approaches. However every trip has its focus and mine was definitely more about enjoying beautiful moments with wonderful people than on real sightseeing.

After running around South America, it's been an entirely new and wonderful experience venturing across my own country to play tourist on American soil. Our world is so fabulously vast with an array of rich experiences to offer tucked into every corner of the globe. Life just continues to surprise; no matter where we are!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Full heart, empty bank account.

They say you either have time or money. Right now, I’m enjoying the luxury of having time. After making pesos in Argentina for 2 years and returning to the states flat broke without a full-time job, I can’t really claim to be rolling in cash. The rainbow in that story is that I’ve continued doing a bit of contract work with my company in Argentina so I’ve got a tiny income and I’m completely mobile. While I may not be able to purchase a new shoe collection, right now I have time to visit the people I missed so much while in Argentina. Two years is a long time to be away, and I have some serious catching up to do.

I tearfully fell into my parent’s arms at the airport. Then, the first people I absolutely had to see were my 2 little sisters, Sarah and Marin. How is it possible I went that long without seeing their beautiful faces? Marin lives in San Diego so the whole family met up in May to celebrate her graduation. Since I’m a nomad, I was able to spend over a week there with her, soaking up quality family time. Extra bonus: I got to meet up with my childhood neighbor and dearest friend Davis for beach adventures.

I’ve also gotten to know my cousin Keri all over again, met up for a weekend escape with my college roommate and bestest friend Lisa, driven an hour to meet my mentor Molly for breakfast and enjoyed many bike rides and leisurely dinners with Mom and Dad. I’ve even been studying for the GMAT! Right now I’m in Arlington, Virginia chasing romance and drinking wine with ex-coworkers/current friends.

So there’s no shoe collection, and I can’t help but pout when contemplating my finances. But I’m so rich and lucky right now! Travelling in my own country and visiting my favorite people fills me with love and joy. It’s also brought me insight and direction for my future. I might choose to live in another country again; however I’d need “home” to be accessible. Ideally, I’d love to settle in around the Bay Area where 80% of my favorite humans are within driving distance and there’s a big international airport. We’ll have to see where the job hunt and life search land me. The future is still wide open.

I do recognize that these past few months are a beautiful, but temporary little period in my life, and I’m slowly working on sculpting a new direction for my future. However, at this moment I’m very grateful for my empty bank account, since it means I’ve got extra time to fill up my heart enjoying the people I adore.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Blogs must transition, too.

Minor epiphany: Since returning to the US after living in Argentina for 2 years, I haven’t been maintaining my blog so well. After a bit of contemplation I realized:
  1. I like this blog! I’m not giving it up. Somehow it’s easier to process the thoughts whirlwinding through my head when I can write them down and share them with you.
  2. My story didn’t end when I got back home to the states. In fact, it’s just beginning.
Now I have to build an entire life from scratch. It’s going to be yet another amazing journey and I’d like to share it with you. I’ve started by updating my blog design a bit. What do you think!?