This has been a journey of many surprises, many setbacks, much joy, and unbelievable loneliness.
It's not like I ever expected moving across the country alone to be a freaking picnic, but I had heard such wonderful things about how sweet and kind people are in the midwest.
Here is my attempt to share (some of) my experience in my new life, so far.
I have quickly come to understand this phrase: Minnesota Nice. Which turns out, isn't that nice at all.
See, my address is in Wisconsin, but almost geographically, culturally, and according to the station of NPR I pick up, I'm in Minnesota. Apparently, "minnesota nice" comes from the scandanavian culture, which is prominent in these parts. You mind your own business, you don't really smile if you don't have to, and when someone thanks you, you say "yup".
Now, in California, we are angry drivers, we talk too fast, and we are materialistic, but man, we smile when we pass someone on the sidewalk, and you bet your ass we hold doors for people. God, I miss the fabricated culture of customer service that has permeated my so. cal life since birth. I miss the heat, I miss the smog, GOD I MISS THE TRAFFIC, and sweet JESUS do I miss diversity.
My town, Superior Wi, shares a bay on Lake Superior with Duluth Mn. Its like 2 minutes across the bay, and I'm honestly really in love with Duluth. They have 2 bigger universities, and some cool bars, some cool shops, and cooler people. Its actually really really hilly, especially for the midwest. I like Duluth. And there's no clothing tax there. I saw Tapes N Tapes at a bar there a couple weeks ago, and met a couple of hot ass WASPy dudes who are like Duluth royalty. It really reminds me of a little, less diverse, less crazy, Oakland.
So, I'm homesick, but don't get me wrong. Aside from the crippling loneliness I'm experiencing, which is amplifying my pre-existing depression and anxiety, I kinda like it here. It's quiet, it's scenic, there is diversity in the wildlife i can encounter here (a fox crossed the street right in front of me when I was walking the other day, and he was such a gentleman he waited til he got to the other side to poop.)
My classes are pretty good. At first I was really worried about my faculty adviser, who also teaches the classes for my major, because her art is really really terrible. But now that I've gotten to know her, I really like her. She's silly and sensitive and doesn't take herself too seriously. I could take a lesson from that. But, she also makes me grateful for the art teachers I've had who were fierce and grizzled from their experiences with the LA art scene. They gave me a strong foundation and unattainable expectations that have placed me heads above my peers.
I am having a lot of trouble making friends. Before I left, everyone told me not to worry, I'm so funny and out going, I would have no trouble making friends. Most people do not know that under all that funny and outgoing is an intense anxiety disorder that keeps me from being fun and out going until i'm comfortable with you. I DON'T LIKE APPROACHING NEW PEOPLE. Anyway, I'm on their turf now, they're the hosts, they should be approaching me, right?
Well, I have taken almost every meal here by myself. Which probably is okay, it's kept me from eating all i can eat, at the all you can eat dining commons area. Although, I rarely want to eat all I can eat there. I haven't even tried a dessert, because the thought of sitting at a table and eating a second course all by myself is kind of more than I can handle.
A couple of people have stooped to get to know me, I have made one pretty good friend. Her name is Miyuki, she is from Japan and she is adorable. She is really fun and we went out for thai food together. It wasnt that good. She has been in the US for a while and this is her second year in Superior. She has a dorky midwestern american boyfriend and for some reason it makes me feel weird.
I have my own nice sized room in a dorm that is about a mile off campus. The distance doesnt bother me, it is encouraging me to exercise more, because I really can't reconcile driving 3 blocks to find parking when it would take me almost as long to walk. I debated getting a bike, but its going to start snowing pretty soon, and i ran out of money. My room is a crazy mess, of course, but most of it is art stuff. Being really lonely has inspired me to make stuff. So now I stay up all night making shit, which the other night prompted me to wonder "am I on meth??". That in turn, inspired me to write a childrens book, or develop an interactive program for children entitled "Am I on Meth?" and it will take kids through a series of photos of people, and they will have to decide whether or not that person is on meth.
I have a work study job on campus that gives me a whoppin 7 hours a week. Makin copies, processing data, putting shit in folders, thats what I do. Today my supervisor, Emily, asked me if i could house sit for her next week. This struck me as odd because i JUST started my job last week, this was only my third day in the CETL office, and she really doesn't know me. But I said yes, because I can use any money i can get, and I don't have any reason to be around here by myself every night either.
I went out to Emily's house tonight to learn the drill, meet her animals, and her husband. She has to be in her late 60's, so i was surprised when she told me they were going to Canada to go canoeing. I followed the map out to her house and it led me about 20 minutes outside of town, into amazing country roads with amazing trees changing amazing colors. I drove over creeks and a historic wind mill. I got to a big house, surrounded by wilderness, with a huge garden and a bunch of canoes and stuff. It turns out Emily, my supervisor, and her husband, are old hippies, and they do sustainable farming and hunt for their own meat. They have 2 dogs, 2 kittens, and 15 chickens. Their house is amazing and full of books, records, and art. They are both amazingly skilled artists, and they talked to me about how much they hate republicans. I fell in love with them and their house. Im so excited to house sit. They even have a secret room behind a book case! It's a root cellar (i just found out what that is today.) Emily opened it up and said "we could grow pot in here." I love my supervisor now, Im amazed at what a bad ass she is. I'm excited to spend time at their house. Maybe they can be like my adopted grandparents or something. Oh! And Erv, the husband, made dinner for us, and he made cheesy potatoes with JALAPENOS! No one here eats spicy food. Im in LOVE!
I see deer a lot, and I hear there are wolves, beavers, bears, bob cats etc around. This winter I will be able to see the northern lights. Just thinking about that makes me teary eyed. I cannot wait.
I am learning to live in a new country. I am as good as an international student. I can't wait to come home for thanksgiving, I can't wait for winter break. I can't wait for summer. I can't wait for my degree to be earned so I can come home for good, but in the mean time, I'm doing the best I can to enjoy and adapt to where I am.