December came so quickly it really made me question whether I had just been having the world’s best dream and was about to wake up. It was over 100 degrees here, and I wanted all the excuses in the world to just sit by the fire with everyone and share some red wine, and I couldn’t wait to be on the mountain in Colorado.
The first weird thing I experienced was taking off from my layover in Panama to Chicago. They announced that we didn’t have to turn off our electronics for take off. I turned to the American woman next to me asking, “Really??” I could care less about the on-ness or off-ness of the cell phone that I don’t have, but what was said so casually was huge to me. If that changed, what else has changed??
As we were landing in Chicago they made an announcement that it was 18 degrees in Chicago. I quickly converted this to Celsius…68 degrees. “What? Chicago has warm Decembers now??” The joke was on me; they were talking in Fahrenheit of course.
Other culture shock things that showed up:
The instinct to respond to certain things in Spanish, “Si” “No” “Permiso” or insert often-used Spanish words into the middle of an English sentence. Entonces…
I had not lit a stove without using a match for a year.
Flushing toilet paper instead of throwing it in a garbage can because the sewage systems cannot handle the paper.
Driving a car for the first time in a year was magnificent. Although it was my mom’s keyless entry car, and I got stuck trying to figure it out at a gas station. I almost ended up having to use a pay phone. I felt like I stepped back into time to high school.
Grocery stores/ holistic health stores. We just have access to so much. I cannot even necessarily tell you what, I just know when I am home all I want to do is cook and get the right natural supplements that make me feel good. Things like coconut oil.
On that note, I did eat kale every day while home, sometimes 2 or 3 times a day. I miss it.
It was very strange to shake people’s hands when introduced, instead of giving them a kiss on the cheek. I didn’t like that at all.
To have my own bed, in my own room, with my own bathroom was just magical.
I love buying and giving gifts, and I can’t say I mind shopping so much either. However, I haven’t done this for a year. And so, the extreme of the Christmas shopping season hit me smack in the face like the Chicago bitter cold.
Otherwise I was relieved to see snow and Christmas trees and people bundled up. Christmas decorations in 100 degree heat with palm trees just doesn’t do it for me. I’m a four season kind of girl who follows Bing Crosby’s lead and dreams of a white Christmas.
I did go shopping in my own closet however, which felt like…well, Christmas!
This post has gone on too long without mentioning family and friends, the real reason to come home for a visit. Meghan, David, and Bodhi flew in a couple of days after I got home and from then on it was fun and games, Christmas lights twinkling, getting cozy by the fire with good food and wine and stories.
And I had to bring a taste of Argentina home with me, so one night we made dinner with recipes from Francis Mallmann, Argentina’s most famed chef. Grass fed, free range steaks (the only way to do it), chimichurri, provoleta, a smashed beet and mint salad, zucchini salad with herbs and lemon zest…and of course a bottle or 3 of malbec. Everyone got really into it, making the wood fire to cook the steaks and everything. Que rico!
We had days of parties with my aunts, uncles, cousins, great aunts, great uncles, second cousins. More good food, more good wine, more games, more laughter. We have our share of traditions…reading Twas the Night Before Christmas to my nephew as my dad did when we were kids, The Eve Before the Eve where all 19 cousins meet up at a bar for dancing and occasionally bad karaoke, playing Left, Right, Center (betting game involve zero skill, lots of cheering and shouting, and one lucky winner), and guitar/singalongs til early hours of the morning. We are so much fun, sometimes quite loud, but always fun. I love my family. If it were just a tad colder outside perhaps time would freeze and I could savor those moments a bit longer.
I headed out to Colorado as well to see friends and to be home, or what’s been my home for the 8 years prior to Argentina. This felt especially strange. I didn’t have a phone. I didn’t have a car. I didn’t have a home. Life goes on and maybe on a daily basis it doesn’t feel like a whole lot happens, but come back after a year and there’s a new hipster coffee shop on every corner, marijuana is legal, and friends have bought and sold houses, adopted pets, had babies, said “I do.”, grown their own businesses…it was very humbling. I knew I loved Colorado when I left, and since I had been gone I would hear myself talk about it and realize that it really is true love. But it did feel strange to be back as a visitor and not back home. There’s a difference.
And there just wasn’t enough time. I got to see so many friends and I didn’t get to see everyone and eventually had to take a breath and be ok with having good intentions. I had a lot of special moments and I loved hearing stories of what was going on in everyone’s lives…I have really cool, creative, adventurous, generous, thoughtful friends I must say.
I did get two days in skis, a powder day and a daredevil day as I tried to keep up with Christen launching over cornices and weaving through trees. One of my favorite feelings in the world is bouncing from cloud to cloud of fluffy snow, adrenaline building, powder swishing by my knees, so happy I can’t help but giggle out loud. (pic below, making our way to the back bowls)
There are not words or cliches enough to sum up what the last year has meant for me. If I had to pick just three words to describe it, I’d say challenging, fulfilling, and transformational. Happy New Year everyone!