We touched down in Seattle a little less than one month ago after an amazing exit tour through Brazil. Since we returned to the Pacific Northwest, we’ve traveled nearly 1,400 miles in a borrowed Suburban visiting friends and family and adjusting to life post-Argentina. With our home in Portland occupied by renters until the end of August, we’ve travelled up and down Oregon and Washington hitting family gatherings and making the most of the end of a wonderful summer. Couch surfing with friends and family prior to employment and the beginning of school has provided a great way to ease back into life in the States. However, this nomadic lifestyle, while far from hard living, hasn’t been without its challenges. Our family of five have now spent 6 weeks living out of suitcases since we departed Córdoba. While this period of transition might not offer a true perspective into our reintegration until we’re back in our house, it’s been interesting to observe nonetheless.
After a year away the little things become much more profound. We were all struck by the blunt language and behavior of the TSA employees in Miami when compared to the Argentines, but that might just be standard for the TSA. As expected, we had instant sticker shock from our first “American” breakfast in the Miami airport. I still can’t help but convert costs from dollars into pesos in my head and feel sick. Adjusting to American tipping standards has been a tough pill to swallow also. We couldn’t help but notice the number of obese people as we walked through the Dallas airport. As we flew into Seattle, Ben spied an American football field and could not have been more excited. Not hearing Spanish continuously has been strange and sad for Erica and me. My first visit to a shopping mall in Gig Harbor, Washington was a shock. So many people seem to take for granted the abundance and variety of products available to Americans. We are still amazed at the cheddar cheese, salsa and peanut butter at the tips of our fingers. The size of vehicles is another reminder we’re not in South American any longer. Just like fast-food, cars and trucks seem super sized. The caution and generous attitude displayed to pedestrians by American drivers is amazing! Drivers actually come to halt at a cross walk! The kids initially were confounded by what to do with toilet paper, but have quickly been assured it’s safe to flush here. Erica and I are still occasionally surprised to see glass doors and windows without iron bars. Everyday it seems we see or hear something that reminds us we’re not in Argentina any longer.
Despite all of the driving, it’s been wonderful to see old friends again and visit family. The cultural differences between Argentines and Americans in terms of greetings and familiarity has been striking though. After a year absence, a handshake or a quick hug between longtime friends would be considered cold and distant in Argentina, while being the norm in the US. We seem to be torn between two very different worlds at this point. Erica and I certainly have mixed feelings about returning. We’re not yet settled into our old lives, and not entirely sure we want to drop back into them. Erica and I miss speaking Spanish and try to speak often to each other and the kids. The kids ask often when we are going back to Argentina. We miss besos and the extraordinary affection we experienced in Argentina. We miss our wonderful friends and asados every Sunday. I’ve tried to reproduce asado for family and friends a few times, but so far it’s just not the same. Someday we hope to build our own quincho and parrilla but obtaining the same cuts of meat will be a challenge. It has been sad to read from a distance the continuing financial issues facing Argentina. The recent default and sky rocking blue rate remind us of the real impact on the Argentine people.
The kids have had differing reactions to reentry. Molly and Elliott don’t seem as phased as Ben. Ben has always had a more difficult time with change. Ben’s reaction as we arrived in Portland to be reunited with family was to burst into hysterical tears. The moment and emotions were just too much for him. As parents, we try to remind ourselves that we’ve put them through an enormous amount of change that calls for additional patience and latitude. They are all clearly tired of living out of suitcases and driving. Although normalcy is still a ways off, I’m sure they will love returning to our old house, neighborhood, and regaining a sense of familiarity.
We look forward with a touch of anxiety to watching the kids begin school again in Portland next week. The job search continues for me. Our uncertain future is both terrifying and exciting. We plan to write more about the kids reintegration into school, the job search process and our lives after this adventure as we learn together where it all will lead.