Friday, July 12, 2013

To Home

Plaza Independencia, Mendoza, and the Andean precordillera from the rooftop café for our final IFSA lunch
Exactly six months to the day before the Wednesday I left Mendoza, my first flight from Albuquerque Sunport was cancelled because of a temperature hovering around 5° Fahrenheit and ice on the runway that New Mexicans cannot handle. I returned on Thursday to a “low” 90° Fahrenheit break in the alarmingly hottest summer on record, with literally the entire state’s open spaces being closed due to such a high-risk fire season. A whole lot changes in six months.

The lovely hour of 5am at airport one of six
I am starting to question my ability to actually have a perfectly smooth transit. First, there wasn't a single desk agent for LAN for the first hour I was in line until about 40 minutes before my flight was scheduled to take off. Next, I had some issues with security right off the bat for transporting a rock in my carry-on (…yup. Story for later). My very first flight from Mendoza was delayed yet again: three hours for absolutely no reason at all (typical), followed by 45 minutes sitting on the tarmac after arriving, and finally a delay on the baggage being unloaded. Leave it to Argentina to make my ten-hour layover with an airport change in Buenos Aires turn into a two-hour sprint across the gigantic city of 10 million people. I suppose disastrous travel stories come with the territory when my comparatively “short” return itinerary still involves five cities and six airports. Nevertheless, my belongings all remained intact and the Bermuda Triangle was successfully navigated, so I’d say all was pretty swell!

A very successful and gigantic team-effort brunch
When someone whipped out the harmonica

I was greeted in the United States by a surprisingly cheerful customs officer in Miami International Airport around 5AM on what I was pretty sure was Thursday, although things get mushy when you’re barely halfway home and you’ve already been in airports for over 24 hours. English was surprisingly baffling for quite awhile and my default for talking to strangers is still Spanish. He said, “Welcome back,” and I just blinked at him, said “Gracias” as I took my passport, and floated on. From there on out, it was a haze of bewilderment until none other than Momma Baldwin tackled me in the Albuquerque Sunport a few flights later! Somewhere between shamelessly almost crying at the sight of my beloved Sandia Mountains from the plane and arriving home with Mom to Claire Baglee plus the Baglee clan and a bunch of wonderful food including beautiful home-made green chile enchiladas, reality slapped me in the face: I am home.

The final week in Mendoza was a similar blur of denial. With the constant reminder that this is the last time in my life I will be in this place with these people, I dragged myself out every single night from Wednesday to the following Friday and somehow survived to tell the tale without even contracting the plague while doing so. I miss every single one of my fellow IFSA students so much and cannot even fathom that we are all more or less in our own respective corners of the globe. I am atrocious at goodbyes and pretty much just treat all of them as “see you later”. Luckily, that actually ends up being the case with my unpredictable travel tendencies and little likelihood of settling down in one place anytime soon. In fact, laying idle seems to deliberately evade me. I actually gave an honest effort to stay in one spot after study abroad, but alas, I’ve already got less than two weeks here in Albuquerque before I’m back on a plane or two for another month of running around.

My wonderful "Susanita" Castellano class, with our professor Gladys on the left; photo courtesy of Caitlin Hay
Katie, Erin, and me, making weird faces like we do best
My host mom, Celia; this was an accidental picture but I love it
My last few days were spent hunting down gifts, getting business sorted out pre-Wheaton, and spending as much time with my host mom as possible—warm and fuzzies were rampant. Between teaching her various computer odds-and-ends and how to work Skype, I had some pretty great heart-to-hearts with mi madre mendocina. Both of us are rather shocked at how well we have gotten to know one another and be so happily content in the two months I’ve been under her roof. I cannot even begin to explain how much my move improved my experience in Mendoza. Another poignant task was writing my reflection essay for using my Wheaton Balfour Scholar stipend towards my volunteering stint in Chile. Finally sitting down to read my journal from those days and truly think about what madness I got myself into, both during that time and these six months as a whole, was definitely worth it to me before returning to la vida de la estadounidense loca. I have missed Chile since before I even left, I adored my time in Mendoza, as unpredictable as it was, and I am happy to be back in the same country as so many other places I am fortunate enough to call home. Feeling as though a part of me is strewn all over the place is the norm, but now I’ve thrown another continent into the mix and I do not regret it at all. I cannot really believe what I’ve done during my time in South America, but I am thrilled at how challenging of an experience it has been for me. Life is an adventure and there is no certainty, and I have learned to love that more than I had believed possible.

South American greetings from yours truly and a horse named Panperro;
photo courtesy of Erin Padgett
I want to thank all of you wonderful folks who have taken the time to read about my escapades since January on this blog, and to have kept in touch with a person who is really bad at exactly that. Regardless, I’m guessing that not all of the whopping 3,000 views I’ve had on this over the months have been my own mother (love you, Mom!), and I really cannot express how much I appreciate your interest! I hope all has been well on your end and that you have enjoyed what I have had to share!

I am outrageously excited for my ideas in the next couple of months and years: I am so ready to get to work on making them happen, for another change, and to come home, wherever that may be. On to the next.

So much love from the Land of Enchantment,

I adore this place
Taken from the Rio Grande bosque on the final day of 2011
PS- My Spanglish is absolutely out of control.
  • Beware when speaking to me, and feel free to slap me if I’m blabbering some weird Castellano thing that doesn’t translate. I fully intend to teach my close friends the basics of what in the world I’m saying, because I fear it is inevitable.
  • Also, if I say “chau” (yes, not “ciao” … because Argentina likes to be difficult) at anytime in place of “goodbye,” I’m seriously not meaning to sound obnoxiously pretentious: it’s the Argentine norm and is proving to be a really hard habit to break.
PPS- I made another goofy video of the adventures of Gormanka and Warmi in PerĂș. I recommend the HD option, so check it out and enjoy!

Giant IFSA plus staff group photo; courtesy of Timarie Chan