There comes a point in life when you look around and you realize little things have changed despite your best efforts.

I won’t lie, when I started dating the Argentinian Jorge, I wasn’t too keen on learning Argentinian Spanish or adopting his customs. I don’t know why — it just wasn’t on my agenda. I had come to Chile and that felt to be enough of a cultural endeavor.

Eating lunch at 4 or 5 pm? Dinner at 10? Drinking mate (pronounced MAH-tay) instead of coffee? Bread and/or mayonnaise with every meal? WTF with ‘vos’ and ‘desis’? Sorry, the correct terminology is “tu” and “dices”. Thanks. 

Both of us being ex-pats in Chile, it hasn’t been too hard to concentrate on learning Chilean culture and Spanish instead of Argentinian. I at least have an excuse to resist mate, I figured.

But then comes the day-in and day-out. There’s the fact that the person I hear and speak to most is Jorge, and no matter how hard I wish it otherwise, he will never use the tu form when he speaks. There’s the fact that when he gets excited, upset, impassioned or irritated, his Italian-influenced Spanish starts flooding out, and I understand even less of what he’s saying (when I’m not giggling). There’s the fact that he takes me to his country to meet his entire sprawling Argentinian family, and we spend lazy afternoons sharing mate and getting to know one another and I begin to understand the real meaning of taking mate.

It’s the end of the year so I’m looking around at my life, taking stock of where I am and what I’m doing, asking myself if I want to keep doing this or maybe take another leap. Asking myself hard questions (Do I like what I’m doing? Do I feel healthy? Am I happy?), looking at other areas (a move to Ecuador? What about Columbia? Costa Rica?), thinking about other lifestyles I might want to explore.

And while the swirl of questions continues dense like a cloud around my head, I look around my immediate area — my desk, my plethora of pens, the journals, the craft supplies that I always give away but continue to follow me and accumulate no matter what country I’m in — and I notice something suspicious.

This is mate. My very own mate.
As in, I own this mate set.

I’m drinking mate, by myself, and I might not have even made coffee this morning.
And maybe some mornings I wake up and prefer mate over coffee.
And maybe sometimes I look at Jorge and in my head I use ‘vos’ (though I would never say it to his face). (Yet.)
And maybe yesterday I slathered mayo all over toasted bread and then ate it. Happily.
And pretty much every day I eat lunch after 2pm. 
And when I get excited, upset, impassioned or irritated with Jorge, I find his same Italian-Spanish mannerisms and expressions slipping out.
When did all of this happen???
2013 brought a lot of unexpected lessons, changes, cycles and more. It has been, by far, the best year of my life. If I can end the year thinking ‘vos’ and drinking mate over coffee, then anything is possible. 2014 is on the cusp of existence and I couldn’t be more excited for what lay ahead. I lift my mate to you all as we close up this lovely year and embark upon new journeys.
Salud!