The Astromaid Chronicles

Slow Travel, Creative Living, and Speculation

Tag: home (page 1 of 3)

The Changing of the Tides

One of the only certainties of life is change. What goes up comes down, what recedes will swell, what backpacks to South America will someday return to North America with a frightening array of alpaca sweaters.

It’s the only constant. Back, forth, up, down, back, around, and again.

Despite knowing this, I didn’t quite expect myself end up back in Sandusky. I knew I would always be visiting home, but I hadn’t counted on my roots calling me home so quickly.

There’s something sublime about Home. It’s not just one characteristic, but rather the seamless and elegant blend of so many blessings. How could I choose just one? There’s family here; there’s four seasons and marshes; there’s my community of friends; there’s art and music; there’s my childhood memories; there’s the freaking lake; there’s Cameo pizza; there’s hummus freely available in the grocery stores.

I’ve pined for these different characteristics to varying degrees for about three years, sometimes missing each one viscerally, like a knife point in the heart; and other times just feeling the absence like a dull throb, a lingering stubbed toe.

There’s no world journey without feeling the quiet pulse of one of these sensations, like a quiet murmur in your ear. You just can’t quite shake it entirely, whether it’s the scorching smell of spring that nearly brings you to your knees with it’s familiarity of home, or maybe overhearing compatriots speaking with your accent or hometown slang. Jorge feels it when we are away from Argentina, too; we both feel it when we leave a place that we made home, like Valparaiso, Chile, or the Sacred Valley in Peru.

We’ve left pieces of our hearts around the world, a trail that leads us back to good times and fond memories. And in following the trail around the world, we’ve made our way back to Ohio.

But why OHIO of all places?

Well, for a few reasons.

One: because missing home began to hurt. Like, a lot. It took leaving home to realize how strong my roots were, and that call finally reached a fever pitch. I want more time than the frantic, one-month whirlwind; more elbow room to make plans, have dinners, make memories with my people.

Two: because Jorge wants to learn English! And boy, is he cute when he speaks it.

Three (and most importantly): because we’re getting married!

In my wildest fantasies of where my life might take me, three years ago I never imagined that this path might lead me right back to my hometown, with the love of my life at my side, preparing to seal the legal deal.

I never even imagined meeting a man like Jorge, or that he would become my partner so fluidly, so effortlessly. I have yet to write about how we met, or what it was like in the beginning (and that story is coming!), but he was the man who met me and wasn’t afraid to take the leap with me. Sure, let’s move around cities in South America and see what happens. He’s a badass and I couldn’t be more grateful to have him in my life. Oh Jorge, let me count the ways!

Jorge and I when we met, in March 2013 -- Valparaiso, Chile.

Jorge and I on the night we met, in March 2013 — Valparaiso, Chile.

Jorge and I in July 2015--Akron, OH

Jorge and I in July 2015–Akron, OH

I also never imagined I might be moving into my own Sandusky pad, complete with a tiny orange office space and back yard and free landscaping reign, which will mark my first ever rental in this fair city. (And the first time I’ve had to schedule garbage pick-up. Can’t I just tie it in a plastic bag and toss it in the plaza corner like every other South American country?)

I never imagined I’d be scouting reception venues and gathering my girlfriends so we can hunt for a damn dress (groan). Or that I’d even be confronting the issue of marriage and reception planning. Spoiler alert: I never wanted a traditional wedding, and I STILL don’t!

I couldn’t have seen any of this, and despite the fantastical weirdness of it, despite how surprising it still sounds even to my own ears, it is the truest and most organic journey I’ve ever been on.

The Horgs is the only man I’d say yes to. We’re life partners, a fact that we both feel to the marrow of our bones and back again. Travel has had a lot to do with our certainty on this front. We’ve shared so much  together, and being on the road has fortified us in a way that makes it easier to look to the unknown and know that it’s gonna turn out all right with him by my side.

People write a lot of articles about why travel is the best thing a couple can do together. I might be the next writer to add my two cents to that debate, as well.

So that’s it, folks! We’re going to be in Ohio for about a year. That’s all we can commit to for now—the travel urge pricks hard, and there’s no telling what we might be ready for in a year. If you’ve ever talked to us about our future plans, you’ll know that we have business ideas in Central America, and other ideas for around these parts. The future is brimming with possibilities!

But for right now, first thing’s first.

Time to marry this Argentinian.

Back In Ohio

Jorge and I landed in the USA mid-June. Per typical summer protocol, we were instantly swept up in a tornado of Midwestern fun, revelry, cookouts, and camping trips. Things have slowed down slightly, though not much, and I can’t complain. Being home is so special to me, made sweeter by the taste of missing the damn place so much.

In getting re-acquainted with the sights, smells, and language of home, I thought I’d share some of my favorite moments since returning. Some moments that really reminded me that I’m in Ohio, and that, for better or for worse, this is where I’m from.

1. Awkward compliments about my hair. I’ll be the first to admit that most people don’t know what dreadlocks are. I know this because most people ask me about them, fully admitting their ignorance in either baffling or hilarious disclaimers that only offend me some of the time. From being asked if I’ve ever found insects living in my head (I haven’t) to what percentage of the dreads are made of yarn (0%), sometimes I think I’ve heard it all when it comes to dread-speak. But then comes Mr. Drunk Ohio Guy at the bar the other night. Ruddy and happy on his artisan beers at the Small City Taphouse, he leans over to me while I’m waiting (patiently) to order my Malbec.

“That’s a heck of a weave you got up there,” he says, grinning, eyebrows wiggling in the direction of my hair, which is piled unceremoniously on top of my head in something akin to the Marge Simpson hairstyle. I look at him, expression somewhere between Complete Confusion and Distant Amusement. I try to speak several times, but nothing comes out. A weave? For real? That’s not even…but…OK. Whatever.

Finally, I say, “These are dreadlocks. It’s my actual hair. But, thanks, I guess?” He laughs, a little relieved, and says, “Well I don’t know what you call them. I just wasn’t sure if it was a compliment or if you were gonna hit me.”

His expression is endearing; he means well. He offered me a compliment using the only word he could muster; a weave. Thanks for trying, Drunk Ohio Bar Guy. I appreciate the compliment. And I told him so, before leaving with my glass of Malbec.

A shot of Small City Tap House in Sandusky, OH.

A shot of Small City Tap House in Sandusky, OH.

2. Unsolicited advice about cruises. I went to a wine tasting the other night at a local wine shop. It was my first wine tasting in the USA, but after hosting a wine club in my own house for 6 months back in Valparaiso, Chile, I was a little worried it wouldn’t hold a candle. I mean, inviting backpackers and vagabonds into my home space to share hand-picked, South American wines curated by one of my best friends? How could I ever top the fun and conversations?

What the Ohio-based wine tasting lacked in South American wine diversity (re: it had none) it made up for in interesting vegan food accompaniments and amazing music played by talented musician friends. And, in terms of unexpected conversations on the heels of a few varietals, it didn’t disappoint.

Before I left the tasting that evening, another attendee and I began chatting because of his curiosity about what my t-shirt meant, which led to conversations about where Jorge is from, why are we here, etc. Once some travel chatter had come and gone, he asks, “Have you ever been on a cruise?”

“They aren’t really my style,” I tell him, “but I’d like to go on at least one someday, just to try. Besides, I hear you can get some really good prices!”

“Oh yeah, you can,” he says. “You know how? Go during hurricane season.”

I stare at him a moment, wondering if I’ve misheard him or missed a necessary piece of sarcasm. But he wasn’t kidding.

“If you go during hurricane season,” he says, “not only are the prices rock-bottom, you also have the chance that they’ll completely re-route the trip in order to avoid the hurricane. So if you’re up for a little adventure, that’s the way to go.”

He and his wife do this whenever they can. I’m inclined to take his advice. Because, hey—if you’re gonna go on a cruise, might as well add a dimension of terror and spontaneity to it.

 

3.  Dealing with tornadoes. Three days after landing in Ohio and settling into my childhood home in Sandusky, Jorge and I are lounging in the guest bedroom, caught somewhere between jet lag and exhaustion from unpacking. It’s been raining on and off since we got home, with some impressively ominous storm clouds lurking on the horizon. Jorge, who is from a part of the world that doesn’t see tornadoes with any regularity, can tell that some of these storm clouds mean business.

Stormy Ohio skies...though not quite funnel cloud-grade.

Stormy Ohio skies…though not quite funnel cloud-grade.

“That sky over there looks pretty bad,” I tell him, nodding toward the particular swell of garish black cumulonimbus cloud. “It’s easy to tell if the weather will get weird, here. There’s something in the air that changes. You can just feel it.”

“So what happens if there is a tornado? How do you know?”

“A siren will go off,” I say. “That basically means run to your basement and hang out until the funnel cloud goes away.”

“Funnel cloud? You can actually see it?”

As if on cue, the curdling wail of the siren picks up. We look at each other; tension spikes in the air. We rush downstairs to find my father, who is looking out the back door and into the sky.

“Just keep an eye out for funnel clouds, basically,” I say, straining to see if the clouds are doing anything interesting.

“But it looks calmer now,” Jorge says. The winds had been a little boisterous before, but the world beyond our screen door featured a calmer scene. An eerie tranquility. “Maybe it’s going away.”

“That’s what we call the calm before the storm,” my dad says, his voice punctuated by the shrieking wail of the siren. “That’s when you know things might really go bad.”

Luckily, we didn’t see any funnel clouds, evacuate into the basement, or have a tornado touch down. But it’s a pretty spooky introduction—Tornado 101, if you will—for the foreigner visiting Ohio.

Another Jaunt to the USA

Folks! I apologize for the lengthy and unexplained disappearance. While there were no mysterious fogs that consumed me, nor an unintentional overdose on ceviche, there WAS another trip to the United States of America.

And boy, was that joyous and action-packed!
It started with a harrowing all-the-worst-things American Airlines flight (two delays, flight switching, late boarding, engine failure, flight cancellation, hundreds of angry passengers and no way out of Lima, an inexplicably *closed* Lima airport???, passport stamp cancellations, long lines, sleepless night, to name just a few) that somehow managed to deliver me not to Baltimore as I originally scheduled but to D.C.-Reagan. I made it to my family by the hair on my neck, and we attended my cousin’s wedding as planned. A great time was had by all.

After a few lovely days in D.C. visiting family and the headquarters of my day job for the first time EVER, I flew back to Ohio, which began a whirlwind explosion of friends, family, and fall! 
There were dinner parties, shopping sprees, cleaning sprees, art nights, family visits…

…and road trips…

excellent time with soul mate friends…

good quality OHIO moments…

reunion of best friends…

this dog…

and best of all, a surprise 60th Birthday Party for my beloved father!! And he didn’t even suspect it! 

The time was, as always, a desperately fun and fast-moving, delightful whirlwind. By the time I felt settled in the USA once more, it was time to leave. The only thing that made my departure easier to bear was that a certain Argentinian was waiting (VERY patiently, I might add!) for me in Lima.

Experiencing fall in the USA again was, as suspected, almost too much for my fair Midwestern heart to bear. When I arrived to Baltimore in early September it was basically high summer still, though within a week or so it firmly switched to fall. I was able to drink apple cider, sometimes spiked and sometimes not, touch pumpkins, crunch leaves, and witness gorgeous tree transitions. The crisp fall airs at night, too, were appreciated.

And as though Ohio was making sure I left the country completely satisfied…the day of my departure, it felt exactly like spring.

Thank you, friends, family and homeland, for yet another delightful, inspiring, and nourishing visit!

A Month In America

Readers, Followers, Lovers and Others,

I apologize for the lengthy delay. I’m not usually SO bad about updating!

But, it must be known, that Jorge and I had one freaking jam-packed month in America!

I’m not just talking busy, I’m talking, DOING ALL THE THINGS.

We went to a 4-day festival in Michigan, he met almost all of the family, we explored Sandusky and northern Ohio, we flew to Nashville and spent a weekend there, we visited parks, we walked dogs, we watched (almost) every match of the World Cup, he met and spent time with 95% of my best friends, we held multiple cookouts for both friends and family, we went to Cedar Point, we had 4th of July celebrations, we went to the beach, we got in the lake, we went to Kelley’s Island, we went to Put in Bay, we had dinner at friends’ houses, we went to a local music festival, we saw a lighthouse, we parasailed, we ate so much food I don’t wanna talk about it, and, most of all…we enjoyed a freaking awesome summer in northern Ohio!

On top of all of this, I was still working (though reduced hours). The only thing I had to put on hold was WRITING. Sigh.

Here’s some photographic proof of stuff!

Lovers on the 4th of July

Jorge checks out Lake Erie and Cedar Point Beach

On a little walk with Storm, my dad’s new pup, through Osborne Park

Jorge showing his prowess in asados

After a great visit in Nashville with my mom and stepdad!

On a daytrip to Put-in-Bay with friends!
Helping good friends install laminate flooring for their dance studio!
A self-portrait of the occasional cameraman

Weather Whining and Other Truffles, Part One: EARTHQUAKES

Every place in the world has its own special terrifying natural event that will completely uproot the fabric of existence every once in awhile.

In Ohio, it’s tornadoes. In southeastern USA, it’s hurricanes. In Alaska, it’s snow and ice for 8 months and grizzly bears.

Haaay, Ohio funnel cloud!  Time to go collectively shit our pants.

But down here? In Chile, the natural disaster of choice is earthquakes.

When I first moved to Chile, I didn’t really know a lot of earthquakes happened down here. That was mostly due to my own ignorance. But then as time wore on, especially once I moved to Valparaiso, I would hear comments like, “Did you feel that tremor last night?”. And I’d be confused. Because I never felt any tremors.

They usually occurred at night. Strong enough to feel and comment on — for most people at least. But I slept through them.

In retrospect, this doesn’t surprise me. I hit Snooze roughly 8 times every morning without knowing it, and I sleep so deeply I always had a sneaking suspicion I could sleep through the ground moving.

But I felt gypped. If I live in earthquake land, I want to at least recognize that something is happening with the ground and seismic and tectonic and stuff.

You know what they say…Ask and you shall receive.

Approximately three months ago, I started to feel tremors. And it is not as fun and thrilling as I thought it might be.

It is terrifying. It is counter-intuitive. It is completely jarring. It is a cold fear that creeps across your entire body, starting in the pit of your stomach and going in all directions at once. It is a horrifying realization of ‘Where…the hell…do I go?”.

And to be perfectly honest, I still haven’t even felt a big earthquake. All those feelings right there? That’s just from tremors.

Tremors make me think this is happening below me.

The first tremor I ever consciously acknowledged was during the day — about 5-7 seconds in length, enough for me and all my roommates to run into the common area and scream “OKAY, NOW WHAT?!”. That was about 3 months ago. But about three weeks ago, they started increasing in frequency, and all at night, around midnight or 1am. There were a couple small ones. At this point, nothing to get ruffled about.

But then about a week ago, there was a big tremor. And when I say big I mean the thought crossed my mind that this would probably be the time I had to go crouch in the doorway and crap my pants like all my Chilean friends had instructed me (well, they instructed me on the doorway part, at least). I was prepared for more, like let’s get ready to hear glass crashing and steel warping because the earth isn’t just clearing its throat, it’s vomiting.

That little tremor on March 6th, 2014 turned out to register 5.3 on the Richter scale. Nowhere near the earthquake that hit Chile in 2010 (8.8) or in 1960 in Valdivia (9.5, also the number one earthquake since like, the earth was born).

This happened in Concepcion in 2010. This was at the epicenter.

Let’s just restate the obvious: I cannot imagine what either of those feel like.

The tremor on March 6th inspired me to write a goodbye email to my family, just in case something happened and they never heard from me again. I mean, hey, if enormous seismic activity were to strike three days after that and they never heard from me again, I’d be happy I had the foresight to send them a little bit of love before I was gulped into the earth.

But, that hasn’t happened. And though it could, I’m not sure it will. Valparaiso is pretty dang prepared for this sort of stuff.

Every place is prepared for their own natural disasters, after all. While tornadoes would have a field day with everyone here, in Ohio we got that covered — BASEMENTS. But no basements in Valparaiso! Yet if you turn the tables — earthquakes in Ohio? — you’re screwed. Buildings aren’t prepared for that sort of movement the way they are here in Chile. These buildings are BUILT to sway, rock, tremble, move and otherwise resist up to something pretty high on the Richter Scale.

After all, my house is still here, and it’s way older than 2010. It survived the effects of that 8.8 earthquake, and the cracks in my kitchen prove it. There was a battle — but the building won.

CHILEAN STORY TIME: A good friend of mine, a porteno (i.e. from Valparaiso) named Bernardo, has lived here his whole life — and lived through the 2010 earthquake personally. I pestered him with questions recently, fascinated to know what an 8.8 earthquake might feel like compared to the measly 5.3 sneeze from the other night.

Bernardo told me that he remembers being woken up in the night, and his first thought was that it was just a tremor — like they usually are. But it didn’t stop after the normal amount of time. And it kept getting stronger. And stronger. And then he got out of bed, and noticing the floor was undulating. Like the waves in the sea. His ears were filled with the sound of creaking, grinding, crunching. Light bulbs started to explode.

I.E. TIME TO GET OUT.

My thought in response to an earthquake used to be get the hell out of the house, go outside and plead helplessly into the sky, but according to Bernardo this is not the recommended course of action. He says it’s best to go for doorways, but if on a higher floor of the building, GO DOWN — and then to a doorway. That way, if roofs cave in and things otherwise collapse on top of you, the doorway protects you.

That night, he was on a higher floor of a multi-level building. So he bolted for the stairs. And on his way downstairs, he saw the staircase moving back and forth in the air, which he says looked like the stairs were dancing. Bold and fearless (I’m imagining him like a superhero in his pajamas at this point), he careened (or perhaps hopped like a character in a video game, because this is what it’s sounding like by now) down the staircase, crouched in the doorway at ground level, and waited.

It finally calmed down. And once it did, the next phase of events began: the streetlights flickered out, water lines began to explode. And what remained for him was the moon, which seemed to hang low and huge, enough to illuminate the night even without electricity.

But the earthquake protocol doesn’t end there. That night, Bernardo stayed at his house (with no light, and no water). But people in other areas of the city — specifically, closer to the sea — were abandoning their houses and fleeing upward into the hills.

Because, you know, that’s just one of those things you have to think about after an earthquake on the ocean coast.

Tsunamis.

These Chileans are seasoned veterans when it comes to earthquakes. The tremors that make me write goodbye emails to my family are they same ones they laugh at and roll over to go back to sleep.

Though it’s just part of really living in a region.

I think back to plenty of severe thunderstorms in Ohio, evenings that went from sunny to pitch black in ten minutes, the heavy weight of humidity and pending doom in the air, something close to funnel clouds in the distance, and me, sitting on the front porch watching it all with a glass of wine and enjoying the cool breeze of the rainfall while the tornado siren wails tirelessly in the background.

Maybe Chileans there would be wondering about basement protocol.

But we Ohioans know what’s scary and what’s not. We know to wait for that unnerving stillness in the air.

It’s all about where you grow up.

Greenwich Vs. Candelaria

I know I already wrote about Candelaria, the tiny pueblito from whence my boyfriend comes, but there’s more to be said. For this round of Contemplations On My Boyfriend’s Hometown, I’m going to compare Candelaria, Argentina to Greenwich, Ohio (the village where my mother and the family were raised).
It deserves this extra post because when I went there, I was intrigued by how similar the place feltto the hometown of my mother, aunts and uncle. The more I got to know the city, the more weird similarities I found.  And then when I started researching deeper, the similarities multiplied like single-celled organisms and this blog post was born (or perhaps spawned spontaneously).
Population Background: Candelaria’s population according to Jorge is around 3,000 people. Greenwich’s population estimate for 2012 was around 1,500. City-Data.com calls Greenwich “100% rural”. Interestingly, City-Data.com has nothing to say about Candelaria.
CANDELARIA!

GREENWICH!
Realtime Family Background: All of Jorge’s family was raised on the outskirts of Candelaria (not even seen in the map). Jorge is the youngest child and was the first child to be born to electricity in the house in 1986. Three out of his five siblings continue to live and raise families in ‘downtown’ Candelaria (two left for the capital city). Of the four children my grandparents raised in Greenwich, all left to pursue families and careers in other cities and states. All of them were born to electricity in the household throughout the 60’s and 70’s.
Other Facts: Candelaria (in the state of Ayacucho) was founded in 1870; Greenwich’s first settler arrived in 1817 but it was formally incorporated in 1879. 
Now let’s get to the good stuff…

Valley Beach vs. El Muro: Looking for a fun summertime spot to while away the blistering Ohio/Argentinian peak weather? Valley Beach sits about 15 minutes outside Greenwich in a city called Norwalk, Ohio; and about a 15 minute drive outside of Candelaria sits El Muro (in English, “the wall”) in Quines, Argentina. Both are dedicated to daytime grilling, summer passage of moments and cooling off in bodies of water. Valley Beach features grills scattered along the landscape, while El Muro has one dedicated asado center which looks more like a mausoleum. Valley Beach is flanked by deciduous forests, and has cement pools with an exciting array of diving boards, slides and ancient ropes for swinging into said bodies of water. 
Valley Beach: Whoo Hoo, Childhood!

El Muro, however, is flanked by the unimpressed and unmoving  face of the Sierra (Andes mountains); bathing options include natural rivers and inlets that end in a waterfall that apparently everyone knows not to go over (lifeguard usage is unknown). Editor’s Note: El Muro would be expressly forbidden if it were in America.

Totally fine and permissible unsupervised waterfall area
at El Muro in Quines, AR.

Another view of El Muro — truly a spectacular daytime hangout.
Mausoleum-style asado area not featured here.

The Green Witch vs. La Heladeria: Need a spot to cool off, sit down and eat some damn ice cream? Both countries got this one. The Green Witch in Greenwich kills two birds with one stone, allowing patrons to both buy ice cream AND wash all those sweaty summer undergarments at the attached Laundromat. 
Best dang Oreo Flurries in the land.
Not so sure about that peach shake, though. 
Or whether it doubles as laundry detergent.
In Candelaria, the local Heladeria offers no such multi-tasking efficiency, and their tasty treats have nothing on the Green Witch’s exciting array of both hot and cold consumables (note: does not include the laundry detergent next door). La Heladeria only offers about 10 flavors of ice cream. Both establishments are run by the daughter of someone your grandparents are close to, and both maintain that weary air of one regretful owner trapped in a small, dark room amongst the whirring machines in the peak of summer.
Well, it’s better than nothing, I guess.
In true first-world problem style, it looks like you’ll have to
wash your sweat-encrusted unmentionables outside of the establishment.
Soy Vs. Soja:  Candelaria’s list of growables (and whatnot) includes: berries, watermelon, wheat, soy, corn and potato. The town also has a startling amount of sheep, cows, horses, goats, and chickens.  Jorge’s family alone deals with the majority of these items. Most of the people operating these farms and businesses are recently immigrated Italians or purebred Argentinians (which means, of course, partially Italian, and prone to excessive gesturing and consumption of Fernet).  
Farmland in Candelaria, Argentina.
In Greenwich, the production is mostly the same—soy, wheat, corn, hogs, chicken, and dairy operations. The majority of the farms fall outside of the village limits, and are run by one of two camps: the Mennonites, or the Children of People Your Grandparents Taught.  
The sprawling farmlands of Ohio.
Siesta Vs. The Food Coma: Americans don’t participate in the siesta (basically translates to “socially acceptable adult nap time”) on a cultural level but for a couple times a year: July 4th, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Shannon, what the hell are you talking about, you might be asking. I’ve never taken a siesta in my life. But you have, my dear American friends! The American Food Coma is the closest approximation we have to the siesta. And I point out July 4th, Thanksgiving and Christmas as the most definable moments of when you overeat yourself into a coma and then crash on grandma’s couch for a couple hours afterward. And in Greenwich this occurs without fail, especially for July 4th celebrations and that ridiculous amount of GMZ Deviled Eggs/Potato Salad/Anything Fried from the Downtown Festival.
The Siesta in Latin America falls between 3 to 5pm (give or take), and occurs after lunch—right when you were getting sleepy anyway. This works out in Candelaria because that time of the day is also the hottest – and we’re talking a heat where even if you wanted to do something, you couldn’t. Air conditioning is not utilized. Add onto that the ridiculous amount of rural, home-cooked Argentinian food, plus red wine (BECAUSE IT’S ARGENTINA), and, well…you’re looking at waking up in the early evening with a thick layer of sweat and a desperate need for a shower.
America Smalltown vs. Argentina Smalltown: Both towns in question feature population’s small enough to allow easy face recognition for anyone that passes by, along with at least one juicy bit of common knowledge family history. Whenever I call to the local floral shop to order surprise flowers for my grandparents for a variety of occasions, I only need to say the first fifth of the address before they exclaim, “Oh, you must be the granddaughter of…!” And while the residents of Candelaria might remember me for awhile due to the fact that I am gringa and have dreadlocks,  I heard plenty of similar exclamations amongst locals while I was there: “Oh, you’re the second cousin of…!” And as in much of smalltown America, in Candelaria as well the weather is the first topic of conversation – always.
Another big difference?
Greenwich and Candelaria hit summer at opposite times of the year.
January 14th: high/low in Candelaria: 96F/67F, winds N, sunrise 6:31AM, sunset 8:32PM.
January 14th: high/low in Greenwich: 42F/24F, winds SSW, sunrise 7:53AM, sunset 5:26PM.
Sources:

and REAL LIFE, MAN. 

De Vuelta: Chile

Hey readers – I’m back in Chile! This means that:

  1. Chilean Immigration Officials let me into the country without issue (this is always stressful, even though I am not smuggling drugs, do not intend to overstay any visas, and am extremely compliant when it comes to international law)
  2. I have an ample supply of red beans and Mr. Smith’s coffee to tide me over for a (short amount of) time, and
  3. I’m back to ex-patriot living!

Coming back to Chile presented an interesting internal conflict. I was sad to leave home, my family, my friends, the SUMMER, the excessive amount of To-Go coffee available and the ease of acquiring hummus (see previous post about Ex-Pat Livability Standards); but at the same time, I was re-energized and excited to embark upon continued South American Adventures. My time at home was a nourishing and much-needed break for me. I am totally invigorated and bursting with motivation and ideas for not only continuing life down south, but making it unbelievably great.

That being said, Chile was a bit salty about my Winter Avoidance Tactics. So upon my return, it had a few surprises planned for me. Just so that I didn’t forget what I had left in the southern hemisphere. Sure, fly home and go north for “the summer”,Chile muttered. But when you get back, I’ll make sure you remember how it really is down here.

Not actually Valparaiso, but, I mean, sometimes it feels like this. And maybe I’m living naked and half-frozen on that island. (I should quit complaining — I’m from Ohio for god’s sake)

Things Chile Passive-Aggressively Reminded Me Of Since Returning:

  • The freakin’ gas. My roommates and I have had a number of issues with the gas here at our apartment. There once was a week-long period where we bathed using the hot-water contraption (like, for warming up water for tea) and a crock pot. When I left, I thought the latest potential-gas-leak issue had been resolved. Upon my return, I found out that the gas leak issues had multiplied. We only had to go outside to turn on the pilot light for showers before – now, we have to open and close it for cooking as well. And if we forget to close it, the gas smell gets so bad that the neighbors come knocking. This makes me think twice about turning on the stove for re-heating my coffee. The landlord keeps saying someone will come to fix it. BUT WHEN?
  • The freakin’ winter. Yep, I’m wearing parkas again. And my hands and feet are frozen all the time. The daytime sunshine is lovely and conducive to wearing only a short sleeve t-shirt. But, lest you all forget, our apartment doesn’t receive direct sunlight. And since my return, I found out my landlord posted a new set of “house rules” that expressly prohibits the use of space heaters, which was my only link to sanity prior to leaving. *cough*………*looks around*…Sorry, but…I’m using my space heater.
  • The freakin’ water. Washing dishes and hands and faces with warm water is such a luxury. The country is very resource-conservation-minded, which is awesome. But when you’re already walking around as a relatively solid American Block of Ice, the thought of applying any of that frigid water to extremities is terrifying. Even if it’s just to rinse a glass.
  • The freakin’ Spanish. That’s right, my Chilean Spanish Skills dwindled ever-so-slightly while I was cavorting about in the northern hemisphere. Even a little rust on the ole Wheel of Spanish Comprehension is a dire forecast, especially in this country. But don’t worry, my ear is adjusting. Slowly.

All this might just be the whining of an American girl who left summer at its high point and is now back to wearing parkas in August. My return has been nothing short of spectacular – this first week back has been more jampacked with fun, events, activities and new people than my entire time in Chile prior. I made a conscious effort to start getting involved in Valpo, and the returns have been amazing. The amount of art, gatherings, communities and more in this city is incredible. Since I’ve gotten back, I’ve mingled with Chilean poets, seen impromptu live music sessions, seen a super chileno Musical Comedy that made me laugh so hard I cried, been to a yoga class, went to a wallet-making upcycle workshop, attended a Couchsurfing meet-up event where I met a whole slew of lovely people, and have been host to several group meals/asados in my home (the good energy and cooking helps warms the place up, too).

A group lunch featuring America, England, Germany and France.
Also featuring carrot ginger soup, garlic flatbread, 
avocado/tomato salad and Chilean wine.
 
Me and couchsurfer Karen went to a workshop and made 
some of these (ours are in the mix above).
They’re made out of old milk cartons, tape, 
glue, random decorations and love.
And of course, daring cats mixed with street art. 
It feels really good to be back, Chile. Thank you for receiving me with metaphorically-warm-yet-technically-very-cold arms. I am looking forward to spring, and maybe, just maybe, I can take off these winter socks sometime soon.

In the meantime, I’ll keep enjoying all these awesome people and energies. Deal?

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