Tag Archives: Christmas

A Different Kind of Holiday

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Yes, I haven’t written since right around Thanksgiving. Yes, we are basically at the end of another year (I’m sorry, wait, WHAT?!).

Was this holiday season a blur for anyone else or just me?

A scene of quiet and breakfast the day before Thanksgiving. Pumpkin and blueberry muffins!

A scene of quiet and breakfast the day before Thanksgiving. Pumpkin and blueberry muffins!

That’s how it all started. I made pumpkin muffins to bring into the office two days before Thanksgiving. I then hopped on the train that night and served up the leftovers for breakfast the next morning. My mom was on the same page and had blueberry muffins on hand, too!

What else would you expect?

What else would you expect?

Of course it wasn’t long until I was throwing flour all over the place. That’s my unbaked apple pie. If you look closely, you can see that the pie crust was a little rough this time around. Lots of tears and holes. But you know what? It all works out. I would insert a picture of the baked pie, but then my phone broke before I could upload the rest of the pictures, and I lost all the photos between Thanksgiving and mid-December. Womp womp. Trust me. The pie looked nice.

I moved into an apartment right before Thanksgiving! A couple weeks later, my family was kind enough to rent a van and bring down my bedroom furniture. I went ahead and bought a couple of counter-height stools so I could actually sit at the counter and eat or do work. It’s a little nicer than sitting on the floor. Shocking, I know.

Mostly I just try to enjoy the view from my balcony. And dream about the glamorous sunset cocktail hours and bright Sunday breakfasts I can host on it.

Took this photo as I was running out of my apartment to a work event. But come on! How could I resist?

Took this photo as I was running out of my apartment to a work event. But come on! How could I resist?

Maybe I should get a couch or something first, though. So more than two people can actually sit down.

I started working with a new client at the beginning of December. They’re fantastic, and there’s nothing more I love than having a jam-packed to-do list. I’ve had multiple days where I leave my apartment before the sun is up and I’m not back until long after it has gone down. There’s a lot to get done, and I know I’ll love a vacation eventually. But for now, I know that I love to work, and I’m very lucky to have a job that challenges me and makes me excited for those long days.

Between the new client and the new apartment- all of the newness- the holidays arrived and started racing by until all of a sudden it was the weekend before Christmas. It didn’t feel like Christmas yet. I hustled around Michigan Ave. a bit to finish my shopping. I tried to listen to some Christmas music while I worked. I bought a poinsettia and set up my nativity set.

You know what really got me ready, though? Baking like a maniac that whole Saturday.

I decided to put together a box of cookies for my wonderful coworkers in another office. The key to a good cookie box (or tray) is variety. First up were apple cinnamon oatmeal cookies and sugar cookies. These photos have also gone missing. My apologies. The oatmeal cookies were to have a fruit-based flavor, and to get some hearty texture. The sugar cookies are just classic. I didn’t do cut-outs for this box, but I did cover them in lots of green and red crystals.

Next up were peanut butter blossoms. The recipe is on the back of a bag of Hershey’s kisses. For real! Get a bunch of peanut butter and those Kisses, and you’re probably good to go.

Glossy, sugary, crackly blossoms of joy.

Glossy, sugary, crackly blossoms of joy.

These are a no brainer. Putting peanut butter and chocolate together is always a crowd pleaser. Note: these are not the easiest to package. You’ll want to layer them on parchment paper in your container. Also, I would suggest having a glass of milk on hand. These are dense, rich, and a little sticky.

Third in line: double chocolate chip cookies with candy cane kisses. Can anybody please come up with another name for these? Basically, prep a double chocolate chip cookie. I used this recipe. Bake them all the way, let the cookies cool for a couple minutes, and then press the kiss in while the cookie is still soft. Let cool completely before you store or package them. Like the peanut butter blossoms, they need to be layered, not tossed around.

They are just the cutest and most festive cookies!

They are just the cutest and most festive cookies!

I love these for how Christmas-y they are: those stripes and that peppermint flavor make these appropriate only during this time of year.

Because I still miss Chile, and these never fail to impress, I also made alfajores with homemade manjar. Find the alfajores recipe in one of my Chile posts. For those new to the blog, alfajores are basically shortbread sandwich cookies filled with caramel (dulce de leche, or in Chile, MANJAR). Prep the manjar ahead of time: you’ll need to boil the can of sweetened condensed milk for at least two hours, and it needs to cool completely before you can spread it.

Warning: they might stick to paper towels. Not that that happened here...

Warning: they might stick to paper towels. Not that that happened here…

These actually didn’t make it into the cookie box. My friend C. came over, taste-tested the cookies, and then kept me from crushing too many cookies into that one Tupperware.

And then, it was Christmas.

First, there was a train ride.

First, there was a train ride, and an unexpectedly sunny view of the skyline.

And an unexpectedly sunny view of the skyline.

Then, there were even more cookies. It’s not Christmas without these cut-outs!

My brothers get all the credit for frosting these, as I was trying to finish up some other baking. Didn't they do a lovely job?

My brothers get all the credit for frosting these, as I was trying to finish up some other baking. Didn’t they do a lovely job?

Then there was some pizza bread. And so much cheese and crackers.

This recipe needed a little rescue after I didn't take care of the dough. Thank you, Daddy!

This recipe needed a little rescue after I didn’t take care of the dough. Thank you, Daddy!

And then, there was just a really pretty tree, and a very beautiful, blessed family.

Couldn't ask for anything more.

Couldn’t ask for anything more.

And that, my friends, was Christmas. Just a few days before, I mentioned to a friend that it didn’t feel like it was time yet. My apartment wasn’t decorated, I hadn’t made much time to celebrate in the midst of work and learning the city, and everything was just so new that I didn’t know where my usual traditions fit in. But even though it maybe didn’t feel like the typical holiday season, and even though I maybe didn’t create enough time to reflect and just “be,” it was still a beautiful, meaningful holiday, with lots of time to appreciate and be grateful for what has been an incredible year.

That’s probably the best way I can describe what Christmas felt like this year: grateful. Appreciative. Just so unbelievably thankful for everything that has happened in 2014. Rather than buy extravagant gifts and plan out an elaborate party, in the moments I did think about Christmas, I kept returning to all of the things I’m thankful for. New friends, opportunities, adventures in other states, moving again closer to home, the closeness of old friends, college graduation- the list goes on and on.

Maybe that will be another post. But for now, I hope you have had a very merry Christmas, and that whatever holidays you celebrate have overflowed with blessings big and small.

With love,

Gaby

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Home for the holidays

Merry Christmas! / ¡Feliz Navidad! I hope that you are all enjoying some kind of a slowdown or a break right now, and that you have plenty of time to spend with your loved ones, wherever you are.

I came home from school on the night of the 21st, in the middle of a big snowstorm that ended up dumping about 8 inches of the white stuff in our neighborhood. The next day involved lots of shoveling. On the 23rd, I went shopping (I swore I’d be done by then), baked three kinds of cookies, and wrapped all of my gifts. In my head, I was going to be finished with all of those tasks by about 5 o’ clock. I finished at 12:30 AM.

Idyllic, until you have to shovel it out of your driveway. (Oh, why am I complaining? My family did most of it.)

Idyllic, until you have to shovel it out of your driveway. (Oh, why am I complaining? My family did most of it.)

Cookie baking started at 8 AM...

Cookie baking started at 8 AM…

...picked up again around 5 PM...

…picked up again around 5 PM…

...and finally ended around 11 PM.

…and finally ended around 11 PM.

The next morning, I did a little cleaning, prepped a breakfast casserole, and baked a coffee cake for Christmas morning. After all of that, the huge payoff was a slow and lovely Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We like to draw things out in my house- wake up, make the coffee, maybe open the stockings, then eat breakfast, then open a few presents, then take a break to talk to family, then a few more gifts, then a break…and so on until it’s all done. We may have established a new record for longest Christmas gift-opening this year- not because we have hundreds of gifts, but because we take our sweet time. I will be doing the same with my own children and they will probably lose their minds.

No words.

No words.

Just about sums it up.

Just about sums it up.

In other news: I got the grant! And…I’m not going to Chile this time around. For one thing, flight prices went up and would exceed the entire award. For another (and more important) thing, it would just have been too much stress to organize a trip right at the end of finals week, and then be traveling for almost the entirety of my shorter-than-normal break. Conversations with no less than two advisors, my boss, my parents, and four friends confirmed my instinct that all of the craziness would not be worth it. So I’m taking a break and spending more time at home than I have since last winter break.

I knew barely a day into it that this was the right decision. I haven’t been this relaxed and relatively unoccupied in months. My life would be so incredibly hectic right now were I to be heading to Chile next week. This is not to say that I don’t miss everyone and everything in that skinny little country and that hot, bustling city I’ve called home, but sometimes you just need to stick around in one place for a little while longer. And for me right now, that place is here. I know that I’ll be back in Santiago one day. The links are too strong now for it to be any other way. But this was not the time. If I were supposed to be going, I would just know, and I would not have agonized over the decision, and it would not have caused me so much stress. Being an ambitious person makes it really difficult to say no to an opportunity like a paid international trip. But I also needed to realize that the bigger opportunity may have been this very vacation that I’ve got right now. Everything happens for a reason- and so far, it’s turning out very, very well.

Life is good, friends. I hope that you can celebrate the holidays a little while longer, even beyond New Year’s. If you’re Catholic like me, remember that Christmas doesn’t technically end for us until Epiphany- so don’t stop until then! Appreciate the time you have with your loved ones, and let them know that you’re happy to be there with them. Put away your phone and shut your laptop down for a while (…says the girl writing this on the Internet). Just sit. And smile. Think about how good this year was- and how much more awesome next year will be.

Wishing you peace, joy, and above all, love,

Gaby

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A comer!

That’s how we call each other down to eat in my Chilean family. And this is a post about FOOD.

Why now? Because I leave tomorrow and yesterday I completed a year since I first moved in with my Chilean family and I’m probably going to write a post about all of that when I’m on my combined 11 hours worth of flights. (Everyone is aware that I find flying very uncomfortable, right?)

Last year I feel like I ate a lot differently. There was a lot of salad in my house. I brought lunch along a few times a week, and that usually involved a salad of some kind, maybe a sandwich or a wrap if we were low on salad goods. And then we’d eat a lot of salad for dinner. This time around, the weather has been COLD. Much colder than last year. Probably because last year I arrived as winter was slowly on its way out, and this time I got here right when it really kicked in.

This time around, my office has provided me lunch five days a week. There are two options at work- the normal plate, which is a big portion of the entrée (inevitably some kind of starch plus a protein) (and by big, I mean huge), soup, a small salad (often just cabbage, just tomatoes, or just lettuce with half of a tomato), bread, and a little dessert. After the first week, in which I consumed large portions of beans, pasta, and potatoes, I switched over to the “vegetarian” (spoiler alert: not really vegetarian) or “diet” plate. Which is a normal portion of a starch with a protein, soup, a big salad, bread, and dessert.

The cold that we experienced every day in the office usually meant inhaling the entree and downing the soup as soon as it wasn’t scalding, just to warm ourselves up. Typical entrées were: rice and chicken, chicken and potatoes, tortilla (like Spanish tortilla, a veggie-based, crustless quiche) with rice, quiche with rice or potatoes, and two times, palta a la reina, which is avocado filled up with stuff (in our case, quesillo)…with a side of potatoes.

I ate my salad at lunch and then rarely at salad at home at night. Guys, when it’s cold, I have no desire to put more cold things into my body. So I would compensate with solid portions of pasta, meat and rice, or carbonada, which is a typical Chilean stew filled with potatoes AND rice, some kind of meat, corn, squash, peas, and whatever else the cook likes.

In summary: I ate rice or potatoes at least once a day every day. I have not gone running since I left campus in May. And I miss it.

I spent a lot of time wandering around the supermarket this time as well. Our office was just down the street from one, and most days after lunch we would walk over there to get some air and usually pick up chocolate and other snacks for the afternoon. Here are some of the more interesting things I saw:

Lenguitas del Gato. Translates to Little Cat Tongues. Really it's just a long cookie covered in chocolate, and apparently it exists in Europe as well. But come on. Cat Tongues?

Lenguitas de Gato. Translates to Little Cat Tongues. Really it’s just a long cookie covered in chocolate, and apparently it exists in Europe as well. But come on. Cat Tongues?

This is tea. Called Hot Love. It's just raspberry and vanilla flavored, but the kicker is that it's in English. And I don't know what's particularly hot about raspberry and vanilla.

This is tea. Called Hot Love. It’s just raspberry and vanilla flavored, but the kicker is that it’s in English. And I don’t know what’s particularly hot about raspberry and vanilla.

I never saw these once last year. They look like potato smiles (you had a deprived school lunch life if you don't know what I'm talking about), but made out of corn flour and are raspberry flavored. Found right by the cheese puffs.

I never saw these once last year. They look like potato smiles (you had a deprived school lunch life if you don’t know what I’m talking about), but made out of corn flour and are raspberry flavored. Found right by the cheese puffs.

I've actually had Chis Pop a couple of times. They're like blown up Trix. This is something I would never buy myself...but I always sneak a few if they're around.

I’ve actually had Chis Pop a couple of times. They’re like blown up Trix. This is something I would never buy myself…but I always sneak a few if they’re around.

Okay, this isn't a weird food at all, but it's probably my favorite thing that I can't find in the States. Ramitas are delicious little sticks covered in some kind of slightly cheesy or really cheesy powder. If I were to get a care package from Chile, I would want these, manjar, Watt's peach juice, and Sahne-Nuss.

Okay, this isn’t a weird food at all, but it’s probably my favorite thing that I can’t find in the States. Ramitas are delicious little sticks covered in some kind of slightly cheesy or really cheesy powder. If I were to get a care package from Chile, I would want these, manjar, Watt’s peach juice, and Sahne-Nuss.

They're still selling Christmas candies in this store. No joke. We are now at less than six months until Christmas comes again, guys.

They’re still selling Christmas candies in this store. No joke. We are now at less than six months until Christmas comes again, guys.

Oh, and speaking of Christmas…

We made Christmas cookies to celebrate 6 months until Christmas, and the one year anniversary since I moved into this house. Aaaahhhhh!

We made Christmas cookies to celebrate 6 months until Christmas, and the one year anniversary since I moved into this house. Aaaahhhhh!

That’s all I’ve got for now, friends! My next post will probably be published once I’m stateside again.

Chile, you know I love you. See you again…in October, maybe?

USA: it had better be dang warm and sunny when I get home. If it turns out to be one of those cool, damp summers, I will not be happy.

And Border Patrol: I have fifty minutes to get off my plane and get through customs before I start boarding my next flight. Help me out.

With love,

Gaby

 

 

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¡Feliz Navidad!

It’s La Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve. I can’t believe
we’re already here! I haven’t actually been home for that long, but
in some ways it feels like I never left. I have moments where I
think about how I was living in another country for five months.
Living there. I could kind of find my way around. I took the metro
and walked almost every day and felt like I belonged there, like it
wasn’t so strange. I had a place there. But then it was time to
leave. I really was not into the idea of a hot and summery
Christmas. We were lucky enough to get some snow and cold in
Wisconsin recently, and we are looking at a white Christmas. The
house is decorated, the cookies are baked, the presents are
wrapped. All is right with the world. This “homecoming transition”
thing they warned us about hasn’t been too bad. Sometimes I miss
being in a big city. I’ve had some crazy cravings for bread and
avocado. I made alfajores and they just didn’t come out the way
they should have. At the same time, I’m enjoying the Midwest’s
legendary friendliness. I love the lack of pollution. And I can
text my friends whenever I want again. I still felt, however, that
I was not finished in Chile. I had some stuff left to do. Thus, I
am happy to announce that 2013 will include a return to Santiago. I
was recently informed that I received an internship with a
nonprofit there, and I should be back in May and spend most of the
summer there- well, the winter, actually. Yup. I’m getting three
winters in the space of a year. I have yet to formally accept the
internship, and I know only the basics of what I will be doing
there. But, barring any major and unexpected obstacles, I’m going
back. This was a wonderful early Christmas present, and I feel a
sense of relief knowing that I do indeed have a way back there, and
in a fairly short amount of time. When I first found out about the
internship, it was a little hard to think about going back after
just having come home. Now I’m much more excited. But for the time
being, I’m glad to be here. I’m very content just to be with my
family and friends, and I’m so excited to be going back to campus
in January. It’s good to be back. And it’s great to be going back.
Friends, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, or whatever holiday
you celebrate. And I wish you many blessings for an excellent 2013.
May it be your best year yet. Con cariño, Gaby DSCF5422

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Homecoming

This week has been wonderful and tiring and busy and happy and cold. First there was the whole process of getting home, which involved brief tears in the airport; moments of tears on the plane; Californian wine with the plane dinner which was incredibly disappointing; not sleeping on the plane at all; being randomly selected for the luggage search at US customs; a flight delay in Miami; hearing a lot of Spanish in Miami; and a most joyous reunion with my mom in Chicago. Within hours I was back in the glorious state of Wisconsin, basking in the comparatively weak midday sun and enjoying the delicious, not over-pasteurized, and cold milk. That comes in a plastic gallon jug. Not a cardboard box.

Reflections on departing a foreign country: saying goodbye is like ripping off a Band-Aid. You need to go through security. You need to get yourself together. Say goodbye and get your papers ready.

It does not help your switch back to English when every single person in your entry airport speaks the language you were just speaking for 5 months. Neither does speaking in that language most of the night on the plane…

Wrap your gifts up in your clothes. Nothing- not a thing!- broke. Also, say with confidence that you are 21 when the border patrol agent sees that you are carrying alcohol. Remember that you did indeed turn 21, and maybe they won’t make you haul your luggage through the second check.

If you have more than two pieces of luggage that roll, you should grab a cart to lug it through customs.

Everyone said that there’s a transition involved in going home after study abroad. I feel like it hasn’t been much of a transition, that I came home and unpacked and it’s life as usual around here. But I have my moments where I miss things/forget where I am/briefly wonder what language I should be speaking.

Things that have been wonderful:

Milk. Gosh, I missed just drinking a cold glass of milk.

Orange juice. Real orange juice!

Pretzels. Like the kind you get in a bag. I can’t even tell you if they have them in Santiago or not- I think they do?- because I swear I didn’t eat a single pretzel for 5 months.

Baking. Butter and sugar and flour like every single morning. More of that later.

Drip coffee. Ugh. Nescafé doesn’t even compare.

The sunrise off of our deck. Look at this.

DSCF5377

Cold and bright and blue.

Mass in English and going to Mass at my childhood parish.

Driving a car. I can still do it!

I went to the dentist, and despite large amounts of tea and juice and soda and all the sugar that comes with it (and infrequent flossing…), I don’t have a single cavity.

The water is so much better on my hair. After washing and conditioning my hair just once, it looked better right out of the shower.

The niceness of Midwesterners. Seriously. I love it.

Things that have been…different:

The lack of avocado (almost typed palta) in my meals. Also, the first time I went to the store, the first thing I saw was avocado. And I immediately thought, “Oh, we probably need palta.” Because we almost always needed palta in Santiago.

It’s only recently gotten wintry cold here. It was actually pretty warm for a Wisconsin winter when I came home. But I’ve been freezing.

For the first few days, I would go to look for something and think of where it would be in my Santiago house. Also, every time I’d carry a purse anywhere I’d check for my metro card and my old house keys.

Fewer daylight hours. And did I mention the cold?

The lack of mountains was positively disorienting the first couple of days. How am I supposed to know which way is east?!

I almost always look for toilet paper before entering a public bathroom stall. And many times I almost throw it into the trash can, instead of in the toilet. I will actually do that one of these days.

I like to talk about Chile. A lot.

I miss speaking in Spanish. And I’m afraid I’m going to lose it. And then when I do speak it, de vez en cuando, it sounds so weird to me!

I’ve noticed that I smile a lot and make a bigger effort to be warm to people. Is that a Midwestern thing?

When a table shakes, because someone’s kicked it or whatever, I immediately think, “Tremor!” In Wisconsin, folks.

My dad made chicken cacciatore, which is an Italian chicken stew. It was delicious, but then it reminded me of the Chilean pollo al jugo and my heart hurt a little bit.

But that’s about as “rough” as it’s been, if you can even call it that. I miss people, but that’s why we’ve got the Internet! And I’ve been keeping busy.

This is mostly what I’ve been doing:

Soft gingersnaps. Yummy ginger and spice, not a lot of snap.

Soft gingersnaps. Yummy ginger and spice, not a lot of snap.

These chewy gingersnaps were surprisingly delicious. That is to say, I didn’t think I would like them as much as I did. It’s nice to have a spicy cookie in the midst of pounds of chocolate and buttery goodness. The recipe can be found here, at Two Peas and Their Pod. If you need a cookie recipe, go there! They are known for their creative and reliable cookie ideas.

I also made peanut butter blossoms.

I got a cup and a half of peanut butter out of these single-serving peanut butter cups. It's resourceful. Judge not.

I got a cup and a half of peanut butter out of these single-serving peanut butter cups. It’s resourceful. Judge not.

These are so good. So so good.

These are so good. So so good.

I like peanut butter blossoms because it’s a heavy cookie. The peanut butter is rich and dense, the chocolate is perfect (you can never go wrong with a Hershey’s Kiss!), and they’re freaking rolled in sugar. I like making these because they last me a while. Which means that the people in my house do not eat them all in a couple of days. It’s just too difficult to eat a bunch in one sitting. They’re tricky in their deliciousness. I got this recipe from How Sweet It Is, which is a blog I absolutely adore, but you can also get the recipe off of a bag of Hershey’s Kisses. Really. I even checked. It’s still there.

I also made these. And will probably make them again, because unlike the peanut butter blossoms, they are dangerously easy to eat.

Chocolate chip cookies. You cannot go wrong with a classic, "normal" cookie on your holiday cookie plate!

Chocolate chip cookies. You cannot go wrong with a classic, “normal” cookie on your holiday cookie plate!

These are so soft and delicious. Why? Instant pudding mix. Cook and serve pudding is NOT the same! Make sure you get the right kind! Or you’ll end up like us with two little sad boxes of cook and serve vanilla pudding who get yelled at every time you go to make cookies and think you already have the right kind of pudding. This is the recipe I use. Yup. A whole pound of butter. 4 1/2 cups of flour. But it really does yield around 6 or even 7 dozen cookies. You’ll need that many. They won’t last you.

And then I had my friend E. over and guess what we did?

Look at how Christmas-y they are!

Look at how Christmas-y they are!

I love these. E.’s family requested another batch. They’re a pretty easy cookie and you might have all the ingredients in your house already, except the Candy Cane Hugs (which are delicious by themselves) and unsweetened cocoa powder. They were a favorite last year, and I think my family forgot how much they liked them until they ate them again. Find the recipe here.

Believe it or not, I still have a lot left to do. I’ve got two apple pies to make. I still have lemon raspberry thumbprints, German cinnamon stars, sugar cookies round 2, and- wait for it- Chilean alfajores to make. There’s also pretzel treats and peppermint bark. But those are so easy I barely even count them.

Oh, but did I mention I’m making my own manjar for the alfajores? Yup. Just gonna casually stir a quart of milk with a bunch of sugar over heat until it turns into caramel. You know. Hey, go big or go home.

All in all, it’s been a great first week back in the greatest country in the world. Do we have plenty of problems? Absolutely. I will never deny that, especially in the light of what happened last Friday in Connecticut, which left me with a knot in my stomach all weekend. We are not perfect. But between the outpouring of sympathy and empathy and goodwill in the days since and the chance I’ve had to compare life here to life elsewhere, I can tell you that I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

Well, maybe I’d go back to Chile for a while. But I’ll talk more about that later.

With love,

Gaby

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Dulce y amargo

Bittersweet. That’s what this is. I’ve got four days left until I go home. Or, until I go back to my home in the States.

This house has become another home. I am at home here. I am at home in the language, in the culture (minus the machismo, but I think if I were brunette, it’d be better), in the city. Do I know my way around? Meh, not that well. Is my Spanish perfect? Ni cerca (or is it ni lejos?). By which I mean, not even close. And there’s still so much more exploring to do of this place that I already love so much and am going to hate to leave.

But it’s about time. I’ve been gone about 5 months now. 5 whole months that I haven’t seen my real blood family, the family that raised me. It’s been just about 5 months since my host sister had her parents really and truly to herself. 5 months since I ate my dad’s cooking. 5 months since I have slept in my own room, the one I had painted the color I wanted for my 13th birthday. 5 months since I have been inside of a Target or a Culver’s or Old Navy. 5 months since I’ve been able to pick up the phone and call my mom just to say hi. 5 months since I got on a plane and thought that December 11th was going to take forever to get here.

Well, it didn’t. And there are good things about that, and sad things too. Here’s what I’m looking forward to when I come home:

Celebrating the holidays in the winter. This is proof that I cannot celebrate Christmas in a warm climate. With the lights off, at night when it’s cooler, and with Christmas music playing, it kind of feels like the holidays. Just a little. During the day? When it’s 80 and brilliantly sunny? HA.

Text messaging. It’s expensive here. Not to mention I miss just texting people to say hi.

Public bathrooms with toilet paper, soap, and paper towels/functioning hand dryers. Oh, and public bathrooms you don’t have to pay for to enter.

Not using hours of public transportation daily. For real, I miss being able to get anywhere and everywhere in 20 minutes.

Feeling safer walking around, especially at night. Which goes along with another thing: I’m looking forward to not standing out for being blonde.

The TV. Oh, I miss American TV. Not that there’s any shortage of it here. But really, I miss my local network news! And not having to use sketchy sites to watch my TV shows.

Baking. I’ll talk more about this later, but I’m keeping the blog going after I return. And oh, will there be cookies. And bread. And cookies. And so many cookies.

My own city. Maybe eventually I’ll reveal where I live (to the 5 of you who don’t know me personally). But for real, it’s a great place. And I miss it. I miss knowing where I’m going and being able to give directions and knowing landmarks.

Real orange juice. No more of this nectar stuff. Watt’s Nectar de Durazno, how I love you, but please, someone give me some Minute Maid or Florida’s Own no-pulp real orange juice to eat with my breakfast right now.

Good gum. Even the American brands that I’ve found here aren’t as good somehow.

The Mass in English. I’ve been  to some great Masses here, but still. I don’t know all the prayers and responses here, and I don’t always feel like I’m participating 100% then.

Now here are the things I’m going to miss:

My host family. I could not have gotten luckier. I’m not going to go into details quite yet, but yeah. They’re pretty fantastic.

Having a sister. Sisters are different from brothers, obviously. And while there are lots things I really love about having brothers, having a girly little sister has generally been a blast.

A slower pace of life. I’ve become accustomed to having lots of time to relax and just hang out. Next semester could be pretty rough in terms of work and activities. I’ll be incredibly busy. Which sometimes I love, when I feel like I’m really getting stuff done and doing a lot, but other times I hate, when I need four cups of coffee to get through the day and I can barely get 6 hours of sleep per night.

Spanish. I love this language. ¡Me encanta el idioma! And I know that now that I’ve become fluent, in Chile of all places, I can speak it pretty much wherever I want, except for the slang. I’d better be Skyping my host family often- not just because I will miss them, but because I worked hard to learn this language and no way am I just going to let it go.

The convenience of public transportation. Granted, I had to take very few buses this semester. But still. It’s kind of nice just being able to walk to the metro and get on and go. No relying on anybody for a ride.

The religiosity or spirituality here, especially en el campo. It’s more open, more reverent. I’m not saying that they’re doing it “right,” or the US is doing it “wrong,” but the day-to-day practice of Catholicism here, in general, seems a little more meaningful.

Watt’s Nectar de Durazno. Tea and agua de hierbas all over the place. Bread. Avocado (palta). Bread and palta together. Manjar. So many delicious foods.

Summer weather and long daylight hours.

My service site.

The view of the mountains I had every day, almost everywhere I went.

Living in a big city.

Pisco and very good wine on the cheap.

Living something different from what I’d ever lived before.

Dulce y amargo. Bittersweet. So happy to go home, and yet so sad and tearful to leave. How am I coping? With baking and family time, of course:

Christmas cut-out cookies, round 1, with the help of my host sister.

Christmas cut-out cookies, round 1, with the help of my host sister.

With love,

Gaby

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