• Clotilde Richalet Szuch and Matt Szuch

A New Home and Fresh Eyes

The dream team is pairing up for this one:

Matt's point of view in black // Clo's point of view in pink

Photo : Clotilde Richalet Szuch

While we have been rather occupied (and now almost completed) with demolition, unpacking and organizing our new home, we have also taken some time to travel around the city which we'll be living in (sporadically) until the beginning of September. It's been an interesting time for us; the excitement of a new place (I lived here for about 1 year, back in 2004, in a much different time in my life), being busy with "settling", getting used to the new environment and deciding how we fit into it.

I think Clo and I both were curious and perhaps a bit anxious about how it'd be like to be together 24/7, but frankly this has been quite unsurprising and uneventful. I think the extra space in our house (even though it's quite small) compared to living in apartments/condos helps, and I'm sure we'll revisit this in the future and once we start being together 24/7 within the confines of a single vehicle. For now I am very happy with how little stress we're causing ourselves.

As we have explored this city we are now calling home (at least for a few months!), I've had some very interesting realizations about myself, my preferences and how life, time and experiences can influence perspectives so dramatically.

Here i clearly need to intervene, this has been on my mind a lot lately, to try define and understand the word: HOME.

Where is home? where you grew up, where you own property, where your family is...? What is home? a house, a feeling, a person...? Why do we need a Home? To feel safe, to feel accomplished, to feel that you have roots...? How do you recognize home? You feel like you belong.., you understand people.., you can be yourself 100% ...?

I had the idea when I was younger and dealing with some health issues (nothing too bad no worries!!) that my Home was my Body. That I needed to take care of it as my house because I was going to live in it for ever. It's probably why I like tattoos, who doesn't like to decorate his house. :-))

Since I met my Matt, my opinion on that never lasting question of HOME, has taken a new turn, and I think He is my Home. Wherever he is I feel that I belong. Maybe that's as easy as it gets. Home is where you feel you belong? And as I told him in my wedding vows, I hope he will always feel he can call me Home.

One of these is the realization that Walla Walla is the closest to my childhood home that I've chosen to live in well over 10 years. I mean this in terms of population size, culture, environment and general "feel". I grew up about 10km away from the enormous metropolis of approximately 200 (yep, two hundred) people, and finally when I was about seven our family moved to a larger city of about 5000 (and about 20 minutes away from a city of 200k). There are many things I find pleasant and attractive about small towns, and it's been interesting to rediscover many of them.

I have to get use to the small town feel... I think I like it but not sure I want to admit it yet. Not too easy after making fun of my sister for years in Orbec City... the smallest city in Normandie, France. Now I am the one becoming a country girl!! I have always been a Paris, Rome, Singapore busy bee!! Not sure what I think about it yet... Let's talk about it soon!!

The feeling of relaxation. While I am sure this is strongly related to the fact that I'm no longer working, it is definitely more relaxed in a small town. People smile and say "hi: to you when you walk past them in the street (the few people that are not driving, that is), they ask how your day has been and they are generally more open and less guarded. All this goes towards making me feel more comfortable and relaxed. I am also somewhat curious how much this has to do with being in the US compared to Singapore; I will see how this feeling develops as we spend more time here. I quite like it.

Perhaps best of all, there are so many great weirdos here. From the lady at the grocery store in a wheelchair (not because of an obvious disability, apparently related to weight) who discussed the merits of fresh asparagus (particularly in the smelly impact on ones urine) to the clerk at the post office who told us he was about to retire and his salary and the downsides of his new coworker (something about lemons and lemonade - with the poor guy was two feet away), people are refreshingly frank and open.

This has to be the best part: the "great weirdos" to quote Matt. I often don't know if they are playing a role (or over-playing a role) but most of the people randomly talking to us are all very interesting characters! Which make me question: are we weirdos? Why didn't we get approached by any normal people yet? I have to say we did a yard sale (yes we did) on our first week end here. I was trying to be very American to please my American husband, when after an hour of it he told me this was his first. Argh... so much for trying to fit in!

It's a refreshing change from the reflective veneer and polished shields that are so common in those places when career, money and status are more on mind of the inhabitants. I am also very aware of the fact this approach (career-focused) is not specific to any individual location - in fact, I'm sure much if it had to do with the fact that I was doing a very similar thing for most of the time. I still feel there is a much more hurried and rushed feeling to larger cities compared to smaller cities. In a way, it's like spending time in Thailand compared to Singapore. Regardless of the fact that everywhere there are people who are focused on their career or material things, I feel there are always places that have a more relaxed vibe and less focus on "things" compared to relationships.

Another very satisfying change is the climate and scenery. I've had cold hands and been chilly more than a few times, and needing to put on a coat, hat and gloves is a fantastic change. The nights being chilly and brisk and the days being sunny and warm is awesome. At the same time, I have to confess I will always have a soft spot in my heart for anywhere it's possible to wear shorts and flip flops every day of the year. I did open open up a large portion of my wardrobe, though, since I no longer have to worry about humidity and sweating. It feels glorious to have crisp air and dry, warm sunlight.

The last difference I wanted to mention is one of the more interesting ones. I never realized until recently how quickly your occupation is brought up in the beginning of an introduction. With the ~15 or so new people I have spoken to at a reasonable length, all of them have asked as one of the first two or three questions what I did for a living. There is definitely a bit of a stigma to being unemployed (which is what I am right now), and I can see how some people seem to be a bit sorry for me. On the inside I am actually chortling a bit, but I have yet to find a polite response that explains our situation without seeming like I'm rubbing their noses in our good fortune. This is compared to Singapore, where only rarely was I asked what my job was, but frequently asked how much I paid for my condo rent or something else rather straightforwardly going for the exact numbers.

What you do is what you are..? So if you don't do anything are you no one? It's for sure has been an interesting idea to think about. While in Singapore around our expat friends we were the norm to go travel more, and even more the ballsy ones to quit a comfortable job to continue a life of adventures. Here we become the strange ones that don't have a job and want to travel; hard to explain but even in the way we talk, I feel we are less and less comfortable about talking about our trip here. Even Matt goes back to being a bit introvert about talking about it in public. And for people that know Matt: being shy when it comes to talk about himself is nonsense right?!! ;-)))

I'm really curious to spend more time in Walla Walla and meet more of the people. I think I will start to do some volunteer work here in the next few months, though I am not sure how much. I am also very much looking forward to finally getting a vehicle (hopefully in the next few days) and exploring the areas outside of Walla Walla; the blue mountains, Hood River, so many national forests, Columbia River (many different areas) and other places. It's going to be fun to explore these with Clo and start to get in some practice for our real trip.

Until then, thanks for reading! We'd always love to get your comments and feedback.



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