Austin – Katerina Aman from Ukraine

Tell us about yourself- who are you and what would be the short story of your life?

Hi, My name is Katerina Aman. First of all, let me start by saying thank you for picking me to be a member of the month for EuroCircle. It is a wonderful organization that has brought lots of new friends into my life and a ton of fun experience throughout the events that it holds here in Austin.

I come from a small town of Kerch in Ukraine, located in the eastern part of the Crimean peninsula by the Black Sea.

My city is of the most ancient cities in the world. There are plenty of various historical and architectural monuments and memorials of different historical periods and cultures on the territory of the city, it is truly magnificent and captivating for one to visit.

Since I was six years old it was discovered that I have a talent to learn foreign languages and my Mom immediately placed me in one of the best
schools in town to learn English. She believed that that could probably help me have a better life one day. I graduated at the top of my class with straight As across the board. I have participated in various regional competitions (Olympiads) and won multiple awards. In 1994 I took part in TOEFL exam in Kiev and was chosen to go to the US to study in an American high school for a full year. Unfortunately due to unstable political situation in Crimea, sponsors on US side declined this opportunity.

I entered Kuban Sate University in 1996, faculty of Oriental languages and later department of linguistics. In 2000 I was finally able to fulfill my dream and come to this wonderful country through CAMPUSA program for students. I worked a full summer for AHRC organization in NY and had completely fell in love with the people, life, and possibilities that I could have if I were born in USA instead of USSR.

I was invited and sponsored to come back on the same program the following year. It was 2001. I was in upstate New York when Sept 11th happened. I felt so much pain, anger, grief and loss. I felt like I had been hurt in a way as well. I felt I was part of All Americans.. Now I reside here in Austin with my husband Greg and our son and I am finally living my American Dream.

We know that your family is very important for you – could you tell us more about them and your family life/traditions?

My husband and Nickolas are everything to me – they are my little world, my life revolves around the two of them and I hope for more children in the near future. Kids are the reason of our existence. I feel that my biggest accomplishment in life was to complete myself as a woman by becoming a mother and I strive to be the best parent I can and to raise our child to be a good citizen of its country with right values and firm believes in what’s right and what’s wrong. I was brought up very strictly, my grades at school were excellent, although parents were in principal’s office quite often for my not so excellent behavior. I had every day chores that had to be done
without expecting any kind of praise in return. My Mother is a very strong willed person that did her best to raise two daughters and give them
education in a country that was not so easy to live in to begin with. She checked my homework every night, I had numerous tutors and I was signed up for classes anywhere from ballet, art school, tennis, ballroom dancing, you name it. I admire home stay Moms here among my friends and family, who spend all their time with children, take them to various classes and are heavily involved in their upbringing, it is very important to me. I am very thankful to my Mom for the person I have grown to be and I only hope Nickolas would feel the same about me when he grows up.

I miss my home very much and therefore a have a tradition here in Austin – it is our annual gathering of friends at our house for a traditional Russian meal. I cook usually for three days before that and it is a true feast for stomachs and souls, not so much for liver. 🙂

I speak Russian to my son, I want him to always remember where his Mother and grandparents are from and hopefully speak the language fluently.

What is THE thing/s about Austin captivates you the most?

This city is very fit. I mean, there is not enough pavement in my neighborhood on a Saturday morning for all the healthy lifestyle fans of jogging, biking or strolling! I work out five times a week and my workouts are very versatile from yoga to kickboxing, running and swimming. Some of my friends motivate me to try classes that are absolutely insane, but I like to stay fit and healthy so I always follow all the health and fitness news that my friends tell me. I am thinking about joining my husband and his biking hobby, he got very good at it and is getting ready for his first triathlon next spring.

Another thing that I love about Austin is music of course and it’s ACL festival. I love art and this form of it is the most dearest and
entertaining to me.

I like people here, they smile most of the time, they have a positive outlook on life and it gets contagious. When you surround yourself with
happy, positive people you become one too!

If someone asked you what I should NOT miss while in Austin, what would reply? And what I really SHOULD miss….

I’d say definitely visit Auditorium shores, Lady Bird Lake, Barton Springs Pool, State Capitol, UT, museums, etc. There is a lot to see.

At night time I would pay a visit to 6th street, Pete’s piano bar, Elephant Room if you love jazz, Austin Lyric Opera for a maximum classic
entertainment: whatever your heart desires Austin has it, including numerous restaurants of very good authentic cuisines from all over the world. That’s something I have never experienced while living in Russia.

What you really should miss is walking underneath Congress Avenue Bridge, those free-tailed bats make up for quite memorable trail of smell. And try to miss traffic on Mopac and I-35 in the evenings, other than that, Austin has no other drawbacks.

Anything truly memorable that has happened to you since you have lived in Austin?

This year I ran my first marathon here in Austin. It was quite a tough experience, since I did it with a stroller. I also met a great group of people through EuroCircle, some of them became close friends.

What really annoys you about Austin – or maybe nothing does?

There is nothing that annoys me about it, it’s a perfect little city to live
in. It has a tendency to have some weird people on the streets sometimes but
that’s what also makes it unique.

What do you miss most from your country or Europe…in addition to the family and friends?

I miss country side.. Birch trees, rivers, Crimean mountains, the Black Sea. I miss singing folk songs with my grandparents. I miss camping with tents and mushroom/berry picking with my Mom and Dad. I am very outdoorsy as you can tell:)

Do you have a favorite Austin/area restaurant? Why…. what is the good and bad about restaurant in your opinion in Austin.

My favorite restaurant is Maudie’s Milagros on 360. Their food and service are always consistent. Best Margaritas in my opinion.

Where and how would you live in Austin or elsewhere if money is not an obstacle – compared to how you live now or would you stay where you are? Why?

If money were not an obstacle, I would have an ocean front house somewhere in San Diego as a vacation home. Water is my second “air”; I can’t live without it. But I am happy where I am, there are lakes here as well and the Gulf of Mexico is only couple hours away.

What do you think about the cost of living in Europe vs Austin, TX – and the standard of life and life style?

Sometimes I compare costs of necessary items with my grandmother who lives in Ukraine and she is always shocked to hear that everything costs pretty much the same here and there, although her pension is 20 times less.

I think people have different social ladders here and there, and therefore they have different life styles. It is all about how much money you make and what you can afford regardless whether you live in Russia or here in the US.

I also have self made professional business owners among my girlfriends whom I am very proud of. I think to achieve what they did here would have been practically impossible if they were to start such ventures in Russia.

If you could change something about Austin – what would it be?

For the most part the city is very clean but it could use more trash cans in
public places. And of course parking downtown needs to get better.

Anything else you feel you’d like to share with us about Austin or yourself?

I plan to stay here… I don’t see myself living anywhere else. I am planning on staying and raising my children here with my husband.

I would love to go to cooking school one day as I am a great cook and love it but there is a lot of room for growth and perfection!

Oh, and I forgot to mention that climate is very suitable for me as well. Although I come from Russia, I am very cold intolerant: So yes, I am staying where I am 🙂

Thank you and have a wonderful holiday season 2013.

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