Dating Appalachia

So, you might ask, how did this blog come to be called “Dating Appalachia?”

Well, for the past 8 years, ever since my move to Asheville, I have been jotting down stories about my transition from city life to life in the mountains on various scraps of paper, in journals that somehow became neglected after a month or so, and in random folders on my computer. But nothing came to mind for what to name this collection of experiences in my new home in a small town in Western North Carolina.

Until, that is, I went out on a blind date.

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I arrived in Asheville as a single (divorced) woman, with two kids – one in high school and one in college. It took me awhile to realize that my prospects for finding a boyfriend here were pretty slim. According to Kiplinger, Asheville ranks among the ten worst cities for singles in the US.

I knew just what I was looking for, though. I had lived in London as a kid, worked in Paris as a teenager, and traveled throughout much of Europe for work as an adult. So naturally I was on the lookout for an international boyfriend, someone to have travel adventures with and learn different languages from. Asheville attracts an interesting mix of people, but eight years had passed with nothing more than a handful of dates and a few relationships that didn’t last past two months.

And then fate intervened unexpectedly in the form of a tall, long-haired, German, rugby-playing architect named Jo. Jo is in charge of landscaping at the retirement home for Methodist missionaries located across the street from my house and for the past year, we had waved to one another occasionally or spent a few moments chatting about gardening. Or house design. Or Germany.

One day, on a whim, I asked him if he had any single friends.

“No,” he said (sort of smugly, I thought) – “We’re all taken!”

I regretted having asked.

Several week later, however, he came striding across the street as I was pulling my car into the driveway.

“Okay,” he said, not wasting any time with small talk, “I’ve thought of someone!”

Surprised, I agreed to meet that “someone” without pondering why it had taken him a month to come up with this guy.

“When are you going to Spain?” Jo asked.

For most of the summer, I had been talking about my upcoming trip to Barcelona, planned strategically with my Chinese horoscope in mind. For a whole week, I would do nothing but walk the city, experience the food and wine and people, and take photographs on the streets.

My horoscope had promised that those born in the year of the Monkey would find true love some time in the last quarter of the year of the Snake. Accordingly, I booked my trip for late September, thinking I might help things along a little by putting myself in the perfect location to meet an adventurous, handsome Catalan.

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Sadly, though, I returned home boyfriend-less (although I did meet a lovely waiter named Pablo on my last night in Barcelona at the restaurant just outside the flat where I was staying, and two glasses of wine later, it might have turned into something interesting, but….)

Re-entry is always tough. And so on my way back to the States, I spent much of the five-hour layover at JFK pondering this upcoming blind date and strategizing excuses for how to get out of it. (Unfortunately, though, I had no way to contact Jo unless I happened to see him working in the missionary gardens.) There was nothing to do but go through with it.

Hours before the rendezvous, Jo re-appeared on my front porch to tell me my date’s name (Tom) and the location of our dinner – he’d thoughtfully made a reservation for us at Curaté, a wonderful Spanish tapas restaurant downtown. (My opinion of him immediately went up another notch.) He also told me I would be able to identify my date by the rugby shirt he would be wearing. (Rugby shirt, at Curaté? Oh well…)

It had been a 23-hour journey back to Asheville and, massively jet-lagged, I dragged myself through my pre-date preparations. Just before 7, headed downtown.

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We arrived at the restaurant at the exact same moment. Even before I saw the rugby shirt under his sports jacket, I knew it was him.

He was smiling at me.

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Sitting side by side, while the chefs provided us with dish after dish of deliciousness, we talked for nearly four hours.

I discovered he isn’t German or European, he is a fifth generation Appalachian. And he has the complexion of someone with Scottish roots, not Mediterranean. He does have an accent, however – a Southern one.

I also discovered the time I spent inventing excuses to get out of a second date …

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was entirely wasted.

Author: kristin fellows

Kristin Fellows is a street photographer & travel writer, based in Asheville, North Carolina. Kristin’s adventures in the past several years have taken her to Iceland to hike volcanoes and photograph puffins; to Barcelona, Mexico, Addis Ababa, and New Orleans for street photography; and most recently, to Athens for a big fat Greek wedding, and to Helsinki to get beaten with frozen birch branches in the city's oldest public sauna. She is also a documentary film consultant and has worked on more than 200 hours of public television films & productions. Her photograph, “Skywalker,” was chosen as a National Geographic Photo of the Day in 2015. Kristin is still working on her first book, The Red Moon Letters – a non-fiction, dual-narrative thriller set in Ethiopia during the time of the Haile Selassie. Educated in both London and the US, Kristin also has a cherished diploma from the Icelandic Elf School (Álfaskólinn.) Kristin is the niece of the late New York Times foreign correspondent, Lawrence Fellows. Follow Kristin on Instagram @ kristinfellowsphotography

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