Saturday, October 27, 2012

Vacation in the USA (that's what good Americans do, anyway)

I was recently in the great country to the north for reasons I have decided not to share here. Maybe its age. I just want this one for myself. I want to savor it and not share with anyone or have to go through a reflection-draft-revise-edit-publish-areyousure? process, carefully choosing my words as I do with some of my more personal posts. The reasons and outcomes will remain raw and perfect this way, untouched. Thank you for understanding.
That said--all my stories unavailable for sharing, having been tucked away for safe keeping--I do still have some wonder to share with you from my last two weeks abroad.
An unexpected joy blossomed in me during that trip which I am more than happy to share with you. The world needs more happy-happy-joy-joy, after all.
Bits of inner monologue during my first two days back in the USA went something like this:
Ooooh! Warm water to wash my hands. Yes! In the shower too!
Man, this lettuce is delish.
Look at them all stand in a line!
Wow, I'd forgotten how much better the bread is here.
It's so nice to drive a car. And by myself! And at night!
The power hasn't gone out yet. This is awesome.
I just ran four different errands in under two hours. What do people do with all of their extra time?!
I know the names of all the plants, the trees, the roads and the towns. Cool.
Dance like nobody is watching. No, really, they aren't. Dang, I love the anonymity here.
And, quite frequently:
Good grief, it's cold here! But I sure do love wearing these boots and not sweating profusely.

You see, dear reader, I jumped right in. I fully basked in being somewhere where I knew what was going on--and most of the time. I was climbing Maslow's Hierarchy like Tenzing Norgay. And friends would say things like, "I wish I could do what you're doing!" I never managed a coherent, thoughtful response to this, but always thought first, Then why don't you? (because I believe people should chase after their passions) and a close second, But your life is so wonderful here! (because your life really is wonderful there).
I had left the island where I had been feeling helpless as of late. My son was being bullied at school with no end in sight. The power started going out more frequently and I was no longer finding gratitude for the forced breaks, but frustration. My daughter had abandoned her creative and sometimes disturbing drawings for the same picture of a house with a sun and flowers over and over again like a brainwashed robot. I was struggling to manage the responsibilities of a new job which required me to be online (which requires electricity) with all the household-kid stuff and finding more and more that I wasn't in a place where it is possible to fulfill those responsibilities to my personal standards. And it kept raining on the damn laundry. At least my husband was still cheerful and really, really good looking.

Then, sometime in the middle of day 3, it hit me. But it wasn't a cliche ton of bricks, it was more like a cliche fire kindling within, making itself known, gently. Without any painful burning sensations. This is why people vacation, but never live where they vacation. It's just really, really nice to visit. Everything I care about and am passionate about is on the island. I love it here. I really do. I want to spend as much time here as I can possibly manage--and not in a vacation kind of way (even though I talk about the warm, breezy hammock on my back patio a smidge too much). And, true to form, after about day 10, like all of my "vacations", I was ready to go home again. I missed it. Life at home is just enormously more exciting to me and pregnant with the kind of potential that gives me heart palpitations which make the other stuff worth it for me. By day 14, I was aching to go home, but so grateful for everyone I'd spent time with and all I had done. I felt like a new woman. That's what vacation does, right?

So for my good 'ol USA dwellers, here is a helpful vacation comparison chart if you're not completely convinced yet:

Me on Vacation*
You on Vacation
(forgive the broad sweep of assumptions)

I appreciate all the familiar flora & fauna. “Pine trees! Lush (wet) grass! Deer!”
You post pics of lizards you find on a daily stroll, and are surprised by the enormity of the palms
“Driving here is a total breeze. I almost forget I’m driving. Wow, that’s dangerous.”
“Driving here is insane. I’m constantly worried about my safety. Wow, this is dangerous!”
“Ah, all the music is so familiar. I can sing along to all these songs.”
“The music makes me want to dance. I have no idea what the lyrics are saying.”
I eat out more often than at home.
You eat out more often than at home.
I visit family, old friends and run in to people I know everywhere I go.
You make new friends, likely temporary ones and enjoy seeing all new faces.
I enjoy the anonymity of looking like I belong to that place.
You enjoy being different, or settle in to being just another tourist, depending on your particular vacation style.
“Everything is splendidly organized here. And people dutifully wait in lines!”
“Everything is a bit chaotic, but I really dig this carefree approach!”
Clean lettuce, apples, strawberries, tasty bread and a culture of flavored drinks: bubble tea, coffee, intense smoothies are all such a nice change.
Mangoes, pineapples, avocados, papaya and other tropical delights are consumed in copious amounts. After all, this stuff just doesn’t grow back home.
I gain 3 pounds in two weeks.
You gain 3 pounds in two weeks.
I eagerly return home, gratitude on my lips, vowing to go back again someday. “What a wonderful vacation!”
You eagerly return home, grateful for a splendid vacation. “What a rockin’ vacation!”

*The titles, coincidentally, are interchangeable with You at Home, Me at Home.

Okay, one little story from the trip:
The kids and I almost missed our New York to Santiago flight because we got pulled aside in security and questioned rather intensely. A particular item in Max's carry-on seriously concerned them. They ran it through a couple scanners, consulted other security gurus, made us wait anxiously while they went to a back room with it, swabbed it in front of us, and interrogated away. While I was slightly amused, Max understood how they could be concerned about an item of such power and import: his Harry Potter replica wand.

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