hopeless wanderer


Then let me be always migrating,
en route to summer feeding grounds, nests,
to winter mates gathered where the streams
still run, where stream melts the ice
and hidden hot springs sustain.

Yes, I arrive, but I go again.
I have appeared and will appear, the habitats
strange, and sometimes I will be lost:
sidewalk of a foreign city slapping uphill holding your hand,
a small inland pond fed by nothing but rain.

-- Christina Hutchins, The Stranger Dissolves

In the past couple of days, I've had very interesting conversations with strangers about my name. At a coffee shop, a friendly barista, who is half-Russian, told me all about my namesake city in Ukraine and made me promise to go there one day.

"You have to go. My grandma is from Odessa and I have fond memories of my summers in the Black Sea", he said. Then he taught me how to write my name in Russian, both in manuscript and cursive. "You read it as ah-DYESH-uh." It's rather sweet how excited he was.

Then I met this elderly man in Marin who told me about a novel he read in the 70's that took place in Odessa. He wrote down the name of the author and insisted that I should read the book. "It's about spies and secret organizations and you will learn a lot about your city", he said.

Last week, I went to a bookshop in Santa Cruz and met this lady who got so enthusiastic when I told her my name. "Oh, like the female form of Odysseus!", she exclaimed. Then she told me how she always wanted to write a book similar to Homer's. "But this time it's the women who will go on an epic journey to the ends of the world and leave the menfolk behind."

I told her that I haven't read The Odyssey and find it's size rather daunting. "It doesn't matter. As long as you know that your name means going on a long journey. Isn't that what life is all about?"

Yes, I suppose it is. I haven't thought much about what my name means to me but perhaps all these years I've been doing just that.

This month, it's going to be exactly 10 years since I left my country and my family to follow my own journey. A decade. I can't believe it's been that long. And when I think about my 23 year-old self nervously clutching my passport and student visa at the airport one hot August day in 2003, I can only smile at how brave and determined I was. I barely knew what I was doing but that didn't stop me from taking the leap anyway.

Where did all that strength came from? And how much have I changed since then? I'd like to think that in a lot of ways I am still the same person. I'd like to think that I've learned many things and have a deeper understanding of who I am. That perhaps I've grown into my name, wanderer, seeker of unknown seas.

Have a listen: Hopeless Wanderer by Mumford & Sons
Photo taken in Stinson Beach, CA.


  1. Amazing Odessa. I wish my name was a fantastic conversation starter like yours. And yes, you should visit Odessa someday, what a great idea!

    1. Thanks, Camila. I really I can visit there someday.

  2. Oh my so beautiful! Poem and photo! Like a dream! And I so relate to what you wrote about your name, I also have a city name 'Sofia' and also had stories started because of my name :) Listening to Mumford & Sons (thanks for letting me know I don't know them) ;-)

    1. Hi Sofia, isn't it lovely? And to think that for the longest time I never really used my name, I had a few nicknames growing up. ;)

      Also, I hope you will like Mumford & Sons.

  3. I've been wishing I was braver and a bit stronger these days, so this post really resonated with me. I also feel like a bit of a wanderer myself - that feeling of restlessness never quite leaves me. I'm not sure that's a bad thing, but sometimes I wish the feeling would disappear for a while and I could feel 'rooted' in one place, like I belong.

    By the way, I've always loved your name, I think it's wonderful.

    1. Hila, thank you. I've come to accept that I'll always feel like wanderer at heart, belonging in two countries at the same time. And I don't think that's a bad thing either. :)

  4. This post has resonated with me quite a lot. I feel as though I am aimlessly floating in a sea of uncertainty sometimes. Yet somehow it feels as though I am getting strong by each passing day of uncertainty. Does that make sense? I'm pretty sure it doesn't.

    I find your name to be very beautiful.

    1. Amelia, I hear you. I think just being aware of that uncertainty will make you want to do something, making you stronger because of it.