Hello, friends. It’s been a while. My time in the garden city of Augusta, GA, has come to an end as I took an extended break as an expat.
I safely arrived back in Lyon at the beginning of May. I was warmly welcomed by Jordan, who was waiting at the airport with a beautiful pink and white flower bouquet in hand. Jordan wasn’t entirely by himself in France, or else I would not have stayed in the US. During the extra four weeks I stayed back, he was traveling for two of them for work throughout Spain and Germany.
The time was more than just a break as an expat; it was a break from life. I suddenly found myself transformed from a 30-something adult to something resembling a sixteen-year-old kid living back at my parent’s house.
I was back in my old room again. Although the bright pink and yellow walls that perfectly matched my striped comforter were gone, it was still “my” room. I molded back into my high school self, messy and living in a state of organized chaos. I sprinted up the stairs to the second floor each time out of habit, as if I didn’t know how to do it any other way. Responsibility went out the window. Without a car, I had to borrow one of my parent’s cars anytime I wanted to go anywhere. I didn’t clean out the dishwasher once (sorry, mom), and I only cooked after my mom had written clear instructions with all the pots and pans needed already out.
I’ve spent my entire adult life running away from Augusta. And after “living” there for six weeks, I have to ask myself, “why”? This break was the most time I’ve spent in Augusta since I left for college fourteen years ago. I never came home for the summers from college, opting to stay in Athens, or living with my friend’s family while working a summer job in New York. I also never came home for long after college. About a week after graduating from undergrad, I moved to Colorado and never looked back. Even while looking to move closer to home, Augusta never crossed my mind as a place to live.
Maybe it took me too long to learn, but I don’t hate Augusta. I even said out loud, “I really like it here.” This thought may be me experiencing the city through rose-colored glasses. In Augusta, it felt like the pandemic did not exist. Masters Week went on as expected, and I even enjoyed a fresh pimento cheese sandwich from the course (thanks, Sarah!). Restaurants were open, breweries and bars had trivia nights, and masks were only necessary while inside stores. It was a sharp contrast from the previous year in France. Now that I’m back in France, I can still say that it wasn’t the glasses; I really like Augusta.
In my opinion, Augusta, GA needs to add on from their nickname as “the garden city.” I would call it “the city that helps you bloom,” as it helped me feel like myself again.
Here’s a recap of a few things I did while rediscovering the city I grew up in.
Biking on the Augusta Canal
My strongest memory of the Augusta Canal is when I was trying out for the varsity volleyball team in high school. One of the requirements was to run three miles in under thirty minutes. It was a hot and humid Summer day at the canal, and I didn’t make the cut. I’ve never been a fast runner, but I did have a killer serve, which helped secure my spot on the roster.
I can now replace that memory with a new one. One that involves my sister and her husband as we biked our way to downtown Augusta on a beautiful Spring day. We stopped for refreshments halfway at a local coffee shop, Ubora Coffee, where I enjoyed the best tea with lavender.
Exploring Downtown Augusta
Downtown Augusta, GA, is more promising than it has been in years. More businesses are moving into the empty storefronts to try and revitalize the area. It’s been a work in progress since my family moved there almost 25 years ago, but progress is progress!
Custom art murals decorate the sides of many buildings throughout the downtown area. Working pianos were scattered throughout the main street, waiting for someone to play. It’s fun to walk around and try to find them all.
Making Custom Candles
One storefront downtown is Augusta Candle Company, where you can create a custom candle. After confirming that candles could be in checked airplane luggage, I was ready to create my own! My mom, sister, and I spent the afternoon making our one-of-a-kind masterpiece.
First, we went to the scent wall to smell over 100 scents and write down our favorites. Then, we had to choose our jar. I chose a simple green glass container with a lid as I thought this might be the easiest to get back to France. My mom picked a pot made by a local pottery studio, and my sister chose two jars from the wide range of options. We then moved to the scent bar to select our final scents for the candle.
To start, we choose our top three scents from our list. My scents were lavender, eucalyptus, and cedar. Then, we were able to smell all scents together to see how we liked them paired. The employee would help us choose other scents to compliment these. We could mix and match until we found our perfect combination. In the end, I decided on a blend of teakwood, eucalyptus, cedar, and mahogany.
The final part was the hardest of the process. We added drops of each scent into a measuring cup and had to fill it to the top. I was nervous that I would add too much of one scent and not balance it with another. Once we finished this, the employee added soy wax to our blend, and we could pick up the candle in a couple of hours.
This whole experience was fun, but I would rather have someone tell me the scents to choose next time!
Hello queso, my old friend. The first restaurant that Jordan and I went to when arriving in Augusta was at Veracruz, and it was the last restaurant I ate at before I left. It’s that good. While France has over 3,000 different types of cheeses to indulge in, they don’t have queso. And for that reason, I ate Mexican at least five times in six weeks.
Snuggles with furry friends
It’s no secret that Jordan and I wish our dogs were with us in France. We miss them so much! But spending quality cuddle time with my mom and sister’s dogs made missing them a little bit easier.
Spending time with family
Last but certainly not least was the amount of time I was able to spend with my family. This time was a once-in-a-lifetime scenario, a perfect storm of chaotic events that allowed me to spend so much time with my parents and sister. I recognize that in a non-pandemic world, we would not have had this opportunity. So for that, I am thankful.
When I left Augusta for Lyon, I felt calm. It was a sharp contrast from a few weeks earlier when I was grappling with the idea of staying. The conditions in France are slowly improving, and I am mentally refreshed and ready to spend the next year as an expat. The garden city of Augusta helped me bloom, but now it’s time to face reality and bloom where I am planted in Lyon. Here’s to the next year to see what challenges and opportunities life in France brings.