After spending so much time in the world’s driest desert, where it sometimes does not rain for decades, and the temperature barely changes from one month to the next, I have found myself absolutely amazed at how quickly the seasons come and go in the U.S. I arrived in mid-April to snow, rain and fog and barely-above-freezing temperatures. Tonight, about a month later, I stepped outside and it felt hotter than any night I ever experienced in South America even at the height of summer. Of course, I have noticed that we are very concerned about weather here in the Midwest (our local news is obsessed) and this is clearly why: it changes dramatically every day. It can also be incredibly dangerous in these parts of the world, as yesterday’s weather-related tragedies in Oklahoma reminded us.
When I was looking through my photos (most taken in the past 2 weeks) to decide what to post, I realized that already the outdoors looks different: the leaves have fully emerged and the tulips are all gone, replaced by fragrant lilacs and lily of the valley. (They’re so different than the cactus or succulent flowers that I grew accustomed to in recent months, which more or less bloom throughout the year in Northern Chile.) There’s a certain frenzy to the flowers here, as they seem to know their days are numbered and they emerge in aggressively showy and fragrant displays.
What have I been doing? Well, I’ve been acclimating to a very different pace of life, in some ways quieter (no live music outside my window at midnight), and in some ways busier (why is it that there’s always something to do, see, watch?)
Someone asked me on Twitter a week ago if I missed the desert. I can say that I do not. The desert did not agree with me, and I like the sounds and color and madness of the endless green land of Michigan (even if it is home to many unpleasant creatures – I got bitten by a tick a few nights ago, a most unpleasant experience).
So, do I miss anything about South America? Well, I actually miss a few things, besides, of course, a few of my friends that I made there and its wine. I was actually surprised that I missed some of these things:
- Spanish. This is the bane of my existence in Chile because I am not close to being fluent, but also, I sort of got used to hearing the rhythms of the language every day. When I am in stores here, I am still – even a month later – startled when hearing almost everyone speaking English, which seems harsh and feels odd, like I’m an eavesdropper, because I can understand everything anyone is saying. When I do hear Spanish speakers around town, I actually find the sound soothing. I also wonder if my brain just got so used to tuning into other languages that it misses the mental exercise every day. Now, this will be alleviated when I return to Montreal next week. I believe I am simply used to hearing romance languages and I will definitely be surrounded by French before I know it.
- I thought I’d be excited to eat my first donut in nearly a year but the experience was completely unsatisfactory. I blame the absolutely divine Argentinian pastries I had back in January. Argentinian pastries called facturas - sold for less than 50 cents apiece at any corner bakery in Buenos Aires – are basically the best thing ever. They are essentially a light, flaky pastry like a croissant, stuffed with something amazing like cream or fruit or dulce de leche, then cooked in a very hot oven so they are just a little crispy on the outside and very soft inside. Then some of them are sprinkled with sugar or cinnamon sugar. I ate like 3 a day when I was in Buenos Aires. My goal when I return to Montreal is to see if I can find anyone there who sells these things. There are Argentinians in Montreal: my theory is that there must be Argentinian facturas somewhere.
- The avocados. They simply have much more flavor and are creamier.
- Sitting on the beach listening to too-loud music while drinking a caipriñha. Well, okay. I knew I’d miss that.
There are tons of things I don’t miss, though. On the top of my head, the biggest reliefs about being home in North America are:
- Not having to spend 8 hours cooking a meal because so many things are readily available, pre-prepared, and the right kitchen utensils are also available. The ovens are also hotter and more reliable here.
- I can speak the language fluently, which means I can always be understood by other people, so yay for that.
- Not getting a stomach bug approximately every 14 days. Yeah… the food/water/general environment/etc. definitely sits with me better here.
- The joys of online shopping. I mean… the Fedex guy arrives with it right. at. your. door. Like, 2 days later.
- Going to the grocery store and it always has everything you need. Not every item was always in stock back in Chile. All of the essentials were, but I’d often have to wait months for my favorite kinds of crackers, pasta sauce or spices like nutmeg, chile powder or even cinnamon to be back in stock.
And then there are some things that are the same no matter where I go, so I can’t miss them:
- Insects. I used to complain all of the time about the cockroaches and mosquitos in summer in Chile but then we have ticks and mosquitos here in the spring. Same difference. In fact, I think I prefer the random roach to the random tick.
- Grumpy and rude, or sweet and kind people… they can be found all over the world.
- Chocolate is delicious no matter where you are.
- The Internet is the same everywhere. I love logging on to Twitter in Santiago and then logging on to the same Twitter the next morning after a flight in Dallas. I mean, stop and think about it for a moment…it really is a miracle.
Well, that is all for now! I will be back in two weeks when I am back in Montreal. I am going to continue blogging, but I have some plans to revamp a few things around here, so stay tuned. I can’t wait to feature one of my favorite cities in the world, and at the nicest time of year, too! La belle province in June… à bientôt!