12 April 2013


After three flights over 30 hours, when I landed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I was so done with flying! I was done with airports, I was done with airplanes, I was done with people. Luckily, I landed at 4 p.m. local time so I didn’t have many hours left before bedtime.

I had a grande latte in Boston around noon that kept me awake the rest of the day. By 9 p.m., however, I was fading. I don’t remember when I actually went to bed that night but I am sure it was around 11. I got to see Paul for about an hour before he went to bed and then he flew out for training the next morning.

For those following the PNG saga, yes, Paul is actually in training. He got the call Sunday, not Saturday as I previously reported (that brain lapse I blame on jet lag), proving him two days to again schedule a flight, book a hotel and a rental car and be on his way. Bye, Paul. It was nice sleeping next to you. See you in a month.

Surprisingly, I have made it through the first four days extremely well. I have been awake during the day and asleep during the night – it’s weird. Normally I would be napping during the day or pumping coffee into my veins like an addict in order to stay awake. This time, however, I am sailing through with just little bits of “oh, I could probably nap….but I have too much to do.” Keeping myself busy daily likely helps. Next week, when I have a more open schedule, I might just crash. We’ll see.

I have spent half my time staying in Paul’s parents’ house and half my time in a house we are renting. The Bubba House, as my family calls it, was where my grandmother grew up. It’s a tiny, tiny place on a hill near a small lake. The house is very old but my aunt has done a lot to fix it up and make it homey. She has placed carpeting in a couple rooms, renovated the kitchen and she is in the process of renovating the bathroom.

My grandmother lives just up the street, which is a big reason why I love this house. She just popped on over yesterday morning for some coffee while I was waiting on the Internet man to come and bring me the interweb. I had an 8 a.m. appointment and was completely ready for my time slot. Around 8:15, I heard some noise on the porch so I walked over to the door and, to my surprise, there was a starabubba – the Serbian term for “old woman,” and the name that I call Gran.

She had pushed her way over with her cane and her wheely walker, carrying the day’s papers and a pair of slippers. She was donning a fall coat and a scarf on her head. I was on the phone with Paul at the time. “There’s a grandmother at my door,” I told him and I opened the doors leading into the small kitchen.

I got off the phone and greeted Gran, stating that I wasn’t expecting her until much later. Since her sister died last fall, Gran has been sleeping in later and later. She takes a while to get up and get out of bed. Oftentimes if I call her at 10 a.m., she tells me she is just getting up; this is a change from her usual up and sorting laundry by 8 a.m. routine.

“You said you had an appointment so I came to keep you company,” she said in her shriveling voice. I laughed and started a pot of coffee.

We spent the next two hours together, sitting at the table for two against the kitchen window. We had coffee and munched on zeppolis I had purchased at Olive Garden the afternoon before.

She read the paper and told me about people she thought I knew, even though I was 2 and living in Florida when the person graduated. She talked of how she wanted to have her hair done but the local cheapo salon didn’t do the greatest job (duh). I called to make her an appointment at my new favorite downtown shop, Natural Solutions, but their stylist was out for the day. We made an appointment for the following week and Gran wheeled herself back to her house on the hill to wash and pin-curl her hair.

I decided to go to the local community center – another fantastic find on my first day in town – for a bit of a workout. Before Christmas, I was taking pilates and yoga classes six days a week. When we returned to Singapore from the holidays, I had excuses for not going as often – adjusting to the time change, not feeling well, busy schedule, kidney infection. To sum it up, I went to yoga a max of two days a week over a month.

Spending my last few days in Singapore with marathon-runner Megan really got me motivated to being a more steady workout schedule. So, on my first day in Salem, I headed over to the Community Center and inquired about a membership. I got a tour of the complex, which includes a lap pool, hot tub, kiddie pool, gymnasium, elevated running track, a workout studio for classes, a spinning room and a full workout floor with machines and weights.

I was 2.5 minutes into my warmup when I noticed an older couple coming onto the floor from the elevated track. I got excited, paused my machine and ran over to give my neighbors a hug. Jim and Sandy were in Florida for Christmas so I didn’t get to see them the last time I was home. It took them a good 10 seconds to recognize me because they truly were not expecting to see me.

They told me about the center’s Silver Sneakers program, which allows senior citizens to have memberships through Medicaid. They have special classes and get to use all of the facilities in order to promote an active lifestyle.

I spent most of the rest of the day at Annabell’s Restaurant, my third home. Paul’s parents run the restaurant and we help out whenever and wherever we can. In the last two weeks, we have been able to launch a website, www.annabellssalem.com, and a Facebook page for the restaurant (if you are going to like the restaurant page, you also have to like the And Then I Moved to Singapore Facebook page!).

Annabell’s is like Cheers. The same people come in every day, sometimes twice a day. They have their seats picked out just like people in church. They have their favorite wait staff and their favorite dinners. Some people come in on specific days because of the daily dinner feature.

Everyone is friendly and everyone is there to have a good time. Tim runs the kitchen so he hides back there most of the day but Paul’s mom often comes out from her office to say hello to the customers. She does her best to learn everyone’s names, especially if they start to become regulars, and she really tries to remember them.

For the first time since moving to Ohio in 1995, Salem doesn’t suck. I am actually enjoying my time there and feel quite at home – and I NEVER thought that would happen.

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