Dating Appalachia

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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. Having lived in London as a kid, worked in Paris as a teenager, and traveled throughout much of Europe for work as an adult, 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 was 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 smugly in his strong German accent. “We’re all taken!”

I regretted having asked.

Several weeks 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 wondering why it had taken him a month to come up with this guy.

“When are you going to Spain?” Jo asked. I gave him the date of my return and he arranged the blind date for the following night.

My trip to Barcelona had been planned with my Chinese horoscope in mind, which promised 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. For a whole week, I would do nothing but walk the city, experience the food and wine and people, take photographs on the streets and hopefully meet the man of my dreams.

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Sadly, I returned home boyfriend-less. 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 which, 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 wondering how I might get out of 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 – Curaté, a wonderful Spanish tapas restaurant downtown. He also told me I would be able to identify my date by the rugby shirt he would be wearing. (Rugby shirt, at Curaté?)

It had been a 23-hour journey back to Asheville. Massively jet-lagged, I dragged myself through my pre-date preparations and 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.

That evening, 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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Author: kristin fellows

Documentary film consultant, writer & photographer Kristin Fellows is based in Asheville, North Carolina. She has worked as a documentary film consultant for more than 125 films on a multitude of topics. 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, to Helsinki to get beaten with frozen birch branches in the city’s oldest public sauna, to Portugal to track down the backdrop of an old photograph, and to Italy to travel in the footsteps of her late grandmother. Her travel articles have been featured in Pink Pangea, a travel blog for female travelers, and other publications. Her photograph, “Skywalker,” was chosen as a National Geographic Photo of the Day in 2015. Kristin is very nearly finished with her first book, "Lions, Peacocks & Lemon Trees" – a travel memoir that follows a collection of old letters half way around the world, from the Blue Ridge Mountains to Ethiopia to Portugal and Italy. Educated in both London and the US, Kristin also has a cherished diploma from Álfaskólinn, the Icelandic Elf School. Kristin is the niece of the late New York Times foreign correspondent, Lawrence Fellows. Follow Kristin on this blog and on Instagram @ kristinfellowsphotographswords

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