Tuesday, October 13, 2009

DC Through the Eyes of a Wannabe Tourist

I think that a year as foreigners in Argentina taught us to keep our eyes opened anywhere we go, and so it is with a visitor's vision that we are trying to greet our home in Washington, DC. We both loved this city immensely before we left for Argentina, but approaching the city "as a tourist," so to speak, really gives us renewed excitement and wonder at our home. We have filled these two months with "the best of DC," from DC United soccer games to National Portrait Gallery exhibits to the literary musings of the National Book Festival. Sometimes I am totally over-whelmed at the sheer number of options, like how at the National Book Festival, two of my favorite authors--Sue Monk Kidd and Julia Alvarez--were speaking at the same time. How to choose between all of these wonderful opportunities? I suppose that conflict is a pretty ideal dilemma to have. :-)

Some really wonderful highlights about the past two months in DC are as follows:

1. Meeting one of my all-time heroines, Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran and Things I Have Been Silent About. After her fiery and inspiring speech at the Book Festival (where she shouted, "Who is going to bail out the poets??!! Who is going to bail out imagination??!!), I waited in line for an hour to have my copy of Things I Have Been Silent About signed by her truly. As I finally approached her, I became so shy, but as Ms. Nafisi signed by book, I mustered up the courage to tell her how her books have impacted my life. :-)

~Images from the author's official website~

2. President Obama's Health Care Rally at College Park. To be in the midst of thousands of cheering people advocating for reform and to see the President up close & personal speaking his heart out on behalf of the welfare of his paisanos...It was a rally to remember, that is for sure. Tea-baggers, take that!

~image from the Baltimore Sun~

3. The Equal Rights March and Rally on the Capitol. Walking with thousands of others in support of our generation's civil rights struggle was a moving honor (no pun intended). It was beautiful to see the number of families, the number of loving and devoted and monogamous couples out asking for their equal rights and recognitions. And, I'll never forget the chants, such as, "Obama, let Mama marry Mama!" and "I'm not queer, but I'm here!" Who could forget such sayings?!

4. Regina Spektor's concert at the Daughters of Revolution Constitution Hall. Accompanied by a cellist, a violinist, a drummer, and her ever-loyal piano keys, Regina filled up the hall with her emotion-filled voice and chilling lyrics. I think it's safe to say the audience was forever-swayed by the lovely Ms. Spektor, and all her Soviet-Kitsch :-)

~from the Regina Spektor website~

5. Living with the Cunninghams. When else are we going to get a chance to live with one of the fams?! And, who can beat the home-cooked meals, an always-filled cookie jar, Ctrain in the next room over, and Dr. Who references by the dozen?! :-)

6. FRIENDS! From Ro's happenin'-home-comin', to Thievery (Corporation)-filled Baltimore excursions with Mike, to cozy dinners at Jess & Matt's, to Labor Day sessions of "Loaded Questions" with the 3 M's, it's all been absolutely amazing.

And, of course, there's so much more, but I don't need to bore you with all the details. My point being, of course, is just that, when you open your eyes enough, home can be just as exciting as traveling. :-)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Two Months Later

Nick and I have now been home for a little over two months. At times it feels like Argentina was years ago, and at times it feels like we are FOB (Fresh Off the Boat). Surprisingly, the transition back home was relatively seamless. In other words, no culture shock to speak of. After all, it's home.

It feels really good to be home. To feel comfortable in Washington, DC, the city we have both come to love so much and come to think of as our home together--to navigate its streets, metros, neighborhoods, and buses without thinking twice--feels like a luxury. And to be surrounded by loved ones...This is something that I am still reveling in daily, because in reality, life on the road and in a foreign country is often plagued with spells of loneliness. So, to suddenly be in the thick of friends and family is revitalizing and wonderful.

It's funny how a year in Argentina changed us, made us less worried about, well, everything. I feel in so many ways that we are a bit slower, calmer in our ways, as if we are not afraid of what we are missing. We are struggling to find full-time jobs (I am temping now and Nick is interviewing like a mad-man), and while this is a bit frightening and a tad stressful, after our employment debacles in Argentina, we are confident that the right thing will reveal itself at the right time. (Being unemployed in the cozy confines of one's parents' house is infinitely different than being unemployed in a house that's falling apart in a neighborhood that you're not quite sure about that sits a sweltering hour-long bus ride from any job opportunities--that's for sure!) So, we're calmer now, and more appreciative of time spent with those we love, soaking up as much of it as we can.

But, we think of Argentina everyday in so many ways. As irreplaceable and as constant as home is, traveling makes you forever cognizant of how much is out there, how much there is to learn (sort of like how I feel about books--so MANY and not enough time to read them ALL!). I suppose traveling instills in you the oxymoronic itch to learn lEaRn LEARN coupled with the peaceful calm in knowing that home is truly where the heart is...

So while we feel at peace and deeply grateful to be reunited with those we love so much, we miss so much of our Argentine lives. We still try and shop at farmers' markets and support local food initiatives, although financial realities and time constraints lead us to Giant and Safeway more often than not. (We dearly miss the corner fruit and vegetable markets dotting nearly every street!) And because wine is no longer $2 a bottle, we've had to put the cork on that habit, so to speak. And, of course, we miss paying 6 pesos for a kilo of delicious, free range, juicy carne.

We miss these little things, but we also miss the over-arching themes that enveloped us in Argentina. We miss the sense of adventure and the sense of the exotic that followed our every move. We miss being able to hop on a bus on a whim and go see Che Gueverra's birthplace, or world-famous waterfalls, or the snowy Andean caps. We miss the freedom and the constant wonder at the world that followed us like a shadow wherever we went.

So it's funny...We're back, and we couldn't be happier to be back. But we feel that Argentina changed us deeply, and irreversibly unleashed a deep hunger for adventure. As I type, Nick is looking at graduate schools with potential summer study abroad programs, and we still hover around the travel guide section at the library more often than not...

However, the best gift from Argentina is our ensuing decision to get married. We decided on our very last day in Argentina, as we sat in a Mendozan plaza, to leave the country recognizing the bond that had come from our South American year. So now I wear a hundred peso ring on my finger (that is invaluable sentimentally) and we are greeting this new chapter in our lives preparing to be husband & wife, prepared to be partners that commit ourselves and support one another through our individual and paired callings, calling upon the lessons we first learned in Argentina. So, here's to you, Argentina. Thanks for everything.

PS: The beautiful painting at the top of the post is done by the beautiful Laura Eppinger