Friday, January 7, 2011

Top 10 Places I Visited in America

I've been back in Wisconsin now for almost three weeks, and besides my time with the family, I have been trying to visit everyplace I missed over the past year. Here are the top 10:

10. La Fuente, a good Mexican restaurant with great margaritas. I was there last night with my friend Annie.
9. Great Steak Escape. At the mall, but they make a great turkey club sandwich.
8. The Apple Store. Love that place. My toy store.
7. Victoria's Secret. It's fun to buy presents for my girlfriend there because they're really gifts for me!
6. My mom's kitchen. Okay, This isn't exactly a store or anything, but it has been great to have some of mom's cooking....chocolate cupcakes, enchiladas, flank steak, and pork tenderloin roast.
5. Solly's. I haven't actually been there just yet, but this Milwaukee burger institution will see me before the visit is over.
4. Culver's. Double cheeseburgers, crinkle-cut fries, and amazing custard.
3. Steak-N-Shake. Another great burger chain, only higher on the list because it is harder to get to. And it was the first American food I had after landing in Chicago.
2. Cheeseburger in Paradise....a good burger but even better because I went with my daughter. And then we saw "True Grit" .... in English!
1. SeƱor Sol's. The best Mexican food in Milwaukee, and I went there with my dear friend Dee.

I don't know exactly what that says about me, or about America. That's something you can decide for yourself. There's a lot here, but not a lot I miss. Mostly just cheeseburgers and Mexican food. And, of course, my kids, my friends, and the rest of my family. They are the reason I came back and don't need to be on a list. It's obvious.

Back in my self-created prison

Last night and tonight I'm staying at my condo in Milwaukee. It is a very nice place, full of my books and my furniture and feels like my place. Of course, because it is my place.

But being here really reinforces why I live in Kharkov. I am not with my kids here, and my friends are few and far between. I miss so much about my life in Ukraine. First and foremost, I miss Olya. In the past six months, she has become my human credential....she makes me realize why I continue to slog away at this thing we all life, why life felt empty in Milwaukee and why it feels okay in Ukraine. It isn't even close to perfect....but life is full of choices that force you to give up good things to get good things.

It is difficult to make these choices in life. Any ex-pat misses certain things, and most miss a few people every day. For me, it is my two wonderful kids. They don't understand why I felt the need to leave, and I can see why. It is very hard to be away from them, but here is the hard truth: I couldn't be a decent father if I couldn't make anything else in life work. And when I left, I had no job, few friends, and a life in which each day was a challenge. Hard to get out of bed. Hard to get from one hour to the next. Hard to imagine why anyone would keep going in my situation.

What I take out of this is that sometimes a person must choose to do things that hurt to get to a better place. I'm sad about many things in my life, but for the first time in a long time, maybe ever, I'm also happy about some things. That might be as good as it gets.