Chris and I took a daytrip to Chris's childhood hometown, Oneonta, here in upstate New York. There are times when I feel I know Chris as well as I know myself, and other times it just hits me that it really isn't the case. As we were driving around Oneonta and its surroundings, Chris was telling me about his prom night. He showed me his favourite library, the places where he used to play baseball, and the beautiful house he used to live in as a child. We drove past a real drive-in movie theatre. He told me about having gone to (a different) one with his family when he was a child, wearing his pyjamas while sitting at the back seat, falling asleep in the middle of the movie. I had never even seen a drive-in movie theatre before today. (Chris tells me that the drive-in movie theatre we drove by is one of the last remaining ones in upstate New York.)
Like probably all international couples, occasionally Chris and I run into cultural and language-related misunderstandings. Those times we sit back and try to make sense of each other's preconceived notions, funny phrases and habits. It is hard for me to watch Chris turning right when the traffic light is red, and the way I use my knife and fork reminds Chris of the way cowboys eat their pork-and-beans in old Westerns. (I am not exactly sure what this says about my eating habits.)
There are times when I forget that Chris is an American who has lived an American childhood. There are times when I forget how different everyday life is in different countries, and how differently we see things because of our roots and our realities. It comes down to small things: that for Chris it was perfectly natural to have had to address his neighbours "Mr and Mrs So-and-so" when he was growing up. I grew up calling our neighbours by their first names in Finland.
Upstate New York is really beautiful. The rolling hill tops seem to go on forever. Small farms and a-hundred-year-old houses sit next to lush meadows and narrow creeks. Even trailer parks have a view worth a million dollars. Compared to my current surroundings, Finland seems small. But I miss the summer daylight reaching way into midnight, and I miss the dry air. I miss being able to walk in a forest, without having to worry about "Private Property, Keep Out"-signs. Luckily I don't have to wait too long. I received my authorization to travel on Monday, and will be able to visit Finland come midsummer.