Tag Archives: work

Goodbye, Texas. Hello, Chicago!

This has been a long time coming.

When I got hired and learned that I’d be heading to Amarillo for my first project, I knew that moving to Texas- even temporarily- would be a big shift. It’s not easy to get back and forth between Amarillo and Milwaukee. It’s at least two expensive flights, with limited departure and arrival times to choose from. It was clear that, except for a few well-selected trips, I’d be settling into Texas for a little while.

My first glimpse of the Panhandle.

My first glimpse of the Panhandle.

I’ve already written about how it was different adjusting to life after college. There weren’t many people my age around. I mostly just saw the people I worked with. I lived in a hotel room- which had a kitchen, but eventually I got lazy and stopped working on how to cook interesting things for one person. When I finished work for the week, I tried to disconnect and just veg out.

So, maybe life wasn’t as interesting or exciting as I thought it was going to be. But I still learned a few things along the way- about Texans, about traveling, and about being by myself.

I drove this beautiful white Ford F-150 for four glorious weeks. I still miss it.

I drove this beautiful white Ford F-150 for four glorious weeks. I still miss it.

About Texans:

Texans are incredibly friendly and hospitable. I would argue that at least in the Panhandle, they rank with Upper Midwesterners in politeness, smiles, and courtesy. Strangers say hello to each other, which is always my benchmark for openness and hospitality. I had lots of offers from coworkers at the client and volunteers who invited me to eat with them, go to Mass with them, spend time at their homes, and so on. They do a lot to make you feel welcome!

Texans also have a powerful sense of identity and independence. There’s a reason they say Don’t Mess with Texas, and I can totally see how this state was once its own country. Amarillo is real Texas. Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio are big, American metropolises. Austin is a funky liberal hippie enclave. Amarillo is cattle ranches, and farms, and oil fields. These Texans love a good steak…or a chicken-fried steak…or a Tex-Mex plate of enchiladas with beans and rice. Forget the traffic and the hustle and bustle of the other cities. This is the heart of Big Sky Texas, the Yellow Rose of Texas. And they don’t want anybody changing that.

This is what I mean by Big Sky.

This is what I mean by Big Sky.

About traveling and living on the road:

When you don’t have the luxury of an apartment to make your own space, do whatever else you can to make your living arrangements your own. In a hotel room, maybe that means buying a cheap vase and filling it with flowers every week. Maybe you bring or buy one of your own blankets. There’s nothing wrong with getting some kind of air freshener to make the room smell less like a hotel and more like a real home. Candles would be ideal…but I’m pretty sure that would set off the smoke alarms, so I never tried it.

These flowers lasted the longest of any I bought.

These flowers lasted the longest of any I bought.

This looks like a crisp fall day, but it was actually 85 when I took this.

This looks like a crisp fall day, but it was actually 85 when I took this.

Get into a routine, and make sure that routine includes ways to work your body and your mind outside of your job. I started exercising almost every day, either in the fitness room, or by walking in a nearby park or the neighboring bike path. I also recently began studying Portuguese with Duolingo. Find ways to unwind that don’t just involve sitting in the room watching TV.

But there's nothing wrong with a donut and a good book, either.

But there’s nothing wrong with a donut and a good book, either.

About being by yourself:

All of that said, maybe you’ve spent so much time around people that all you really want to do is watch TV and read and veg out. I get that. I did plenty of that. The most important thing is to do what you need to do to be happy. If that means you’re going to travel every other weekend, and you can afford it, go do it! If that means you go see a new movie each week, or try a new restaurant, there you go! If that means you just need to be by yourself, or you need to be around a whole bunch of people to recharge, then there’s your ticket.

You have to learn how to listen to yourself and be content with making your own decisions just for you, not based on what other people think you should be doing. Your experiences are entirely your own. Ultimately, only you can decide what you want to get out of your travels and your time in a place that is not your home. Do you want to make it your home? Is it just where you are during the week, but you jet out on the weekend? Or is it something in between, a way station of sorts?

This was a great way for me to start this job. I worked on a team, so I was never really completely alone. But, I wasn’t close to home, so there were some things that I just had to learn by myself. I had to learn just how to be by myself, for long periods of time. There is a lot of value in that. Especially in a world where we have put such a premium on constant connectedness, it’s becoming more and more rare that we have to be by ourselves and fill our time on our own. In that sense, I was very glad for this experience.

Wild sky on one of my last nights in Texas.

Wild sky on one of my last nights in Texas.

That said, I’m in Chicago and already loving it. If Texas taught me anything besides the lessons above, it’s that I am a city girl through and through. I felt instantly reenergized just by walking down the street and being surrounded by all the people and buildings and lights. This is my kind of environment- everything within reach, within walking distance, within a train ride.

On top of that, I’m much closer to home- heck, I could commute here for a short time if I had to. I’m also close to various friends living in and around the Windy City. Almost everything I felt like I was missing before, I think I’m getting it back again.

I have an apartment. I have a gas stove and a granite island and ample cabinet space for all kinds of baking goodies. I have an incredible balcony which is going to provide endless sparkly pictures. And I’m surrounded by a giant city, a city of fantastically diverse neighborhoods.

Let’s keep exploring, shall we?

With love,

Gaby

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Ready for Fall, and College vs. Employment: A Pro and Con List

Has anyone else started to freak out that it’s already the middle of September and the season of all pumpkin everything and leggings and boots is upon us? I mean, the stores are already filled with fall and Halloween decor. And you know what that means.

The second that Halloween is over, they’ll start playing Christmas music. So it’s practically the holidays already. I mean, it sure seemed like it at Kohl’s yesterday.

STOP THE MADNESS!!!

STOP THE MADNESS!!!

I LOVE this time of the year. I love it when the weather gets cooler and I can bundle up a little more. It means I get to wear jeans and sweaters, which means I don’t have to shave as often (ladies, don’t deny it! That’s a HUGE perk of this season!). I can drink hot tea or coffee in the middle of the day and not sweat. I’m already really excited to start adding fall/winter colors to my wardrobe. I’m thinking I’m going to build a palette of dark grey, camel, aubergine/eggplant, and burgundy/wine. Maybe some forest green and cream if I can find the right pieces.

The (maybe) two men reading this post just totally checked out. Moving on.

As excited I am for the change in seasons, however, this fall is also a really big life moment. It’s the first fall in 18 or 19 years that I haven’t gone to school. This has brought up a lot of conversations between me and my friends about what we miss and don’t miss about college- even for the friends who are in grad school.

This week, I made a pros and cons list for College vs. Employment. School vs. “Real Life.” Pre-Adulthood vs. Trying to be an Adult-hood.

Let’s get started, shall we?

COLLEGE/KAWLEDGE

Pro: being able to spell “college” like that and people might maybe think it’s funny or witty. This does not happen after college.

Con: Being surrounded by people who spell words like that all the time in an effort to be funny. We need more creative wordplay.

Pro: dining halls and meal plans. Access to nearly unlimited amounts of food, two or three times a day. Then, on top of that, you have a magical ID card which allows you to purchase more food outside of meal times- and, more importantly, gives you access to significant quantities of Starbucks.

Con: eventually, the food gets boring. Also, the ID card is not actually magic and all of that Starbucks makes the magic run out more quickly than you thought.

Pro: Dorms! All of your friends, all people your age, all of the time. In many cases, you never want for company.

Con: Sometimes, it’s nice for it to be quiet and solitary. Also, totally done with the whole sharing a bathroom thing. I’ve taken more than my fair share of other people’s hair out of the shower drain.

Pro: Sleeping in late, or, as late as possible, because you don’t really need to dress up for your 8 AM class.

Con: You’re sleeping in so late because you didn’t go to sleep until 2 AM, for no reason other than homework.

Pro: Free workout areas and cheap fitness classes.

Pro: It’s still acceptable for your parents to take care of your finances.

Con: Even if you’re working, you’re probably not earning very much money. And much of that goes to cover your regular spending- partying, shopping, and so on.

Con: HOMEWORK. Because it was just a blast coming home from evening activities after 10 o’ clock, having to start reading 40 pages of political theory, due at 11 AM the next morning.

Con: Ruuuuuuules. Parietals? Alcohol? But we’re all 18 or older. Which makes us legally adults. Which means we totally don’t need those rules to keep us from making poor decisions…right?

Pro: Football weekends! Two solid days of school spirit and zero expectation of getting any work done.

Con: It’d be nice to be able to go into the bookstore after 12 PM on a Friday without having to weave through packs of alumni. I just need some folders…not a $50 sweatshirt.

Pro: you get to do a million things and have a bunch of different identities. You can be an actress and a researcher and an educator. You don’t have to choose!

Who else misses this? *sob*

Who else misses this? *sob*

EMPLOYMENT

Pro: FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE. Nothing feels better than buying something for yourself and knowing that you yourself earned it.

Con: Life is expensive. I mean, have you actually looked at what a box of cereal costs?? What happened to my free Cracklin’ Oat Bran?! Oh, and you actually do have to pay that credit card bill. That’s NOT a magical ID card. (See above, though. Paying it off feels GOOD.)

Pro: NO RULES! You can drink whatever you want every single night and have friends (or more than friends) (or even strangers) of the opposite sex over past 2 AM- heck, as late as you want!

Con: If you took that pro to the extreme, you may make some poor decisions and they will have consequences. Just saying. You do you…but maybe think about it first?

Pro: NO HOMEWORK!!! Well, this isn’t true for everybody. Some people do have to bring work home with them. Including commuting, I work until 8:30 or 9 PM most nights Monday through Thursday, but when I get home, I don’t check my email, I don’t open up Excel, and I veg out. It’s the greatest thing to know that you’re done for the day.

This was a long day, but it was worth it to get it all done!

This was a long day, but it was worth it to get it all done!

Con: What happened to all of my friends? Where are all the people my age? I can’t order and eat an entire pizza by myself…and I don’t have any place to just leave it out where I know it will get eaten.

Con: No more monthlong vacations.

Pro: PAID vacation.

Con: You might not be walking everywhere all the time (to class, running errands, etc.) so you’re getting less exercise. Also, gym memberships are expensive.

Con: If you got a job (that you like) straight out of college, a) congratulations! This is an awesome club to be in, right?, and b) you’re probably still really young in most people’s eyes. I’m finding that the years between 21 and 27 are a total vacuum. It’s before the time that people start talking to you about your biological clock and getting married, which is a plus. But it’s also before the time that people will trust that your age equals some level of experience. I get a lot of comments that I look 18. Glad to know that I’m not aging prematurely…but it requires a lot of work to gain professional credibility.

Con: Dressing the right way as a young professional woman. Too frumpy, dowdy, and matronly, and people think you don’t care about your appearance. Appearances do matter, friends. However, if you dress too young, skimpily, or fashionably, you may not be taken seriously. There’s a very fine line. For me, it means a lot of plain blouses and finding the correct length pencil skirt.

Pro: Proving that you can do something with your education that earns actual money and does not require more school (for the time being, anyway). All of those classes and papers and discussions and exams really and truly resulted in skills that I use every day, and I’m getting a salary and benefits for it!

Pro: You’re not alone in this. Everybody is just figuring it out as they go along. That goes for grads who are working, grads who went back to school, grads who are looking for work, and grads who are doing service. Unless your whole group of friends has magically stayed together in the same area, doing the same things, everyone has to learn how to make new friends as an adult and how to maintain the relationships we worked so hard to cultivate in college.

This sky looks like hope. And freedom.

This sky looks like hope. And freedom.

Now, all of the choices are yours. Not your parents’, not your professors’ or advisors’, not your college’s. They’re yours.

And that’s probably the biggest pro of them all.

With love,

Gaby

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There Are BuzzFeed Lists About This

Somewhere between Dallas and Amarillo.

Somewhere between Dallas and Amarillo.

Right? Hasn’t BuzzFeed already put together a bunch of lists of 27 Things You Learn While Living Alone, or 31 Things That Happen When You Move to a New Place, or something like that? I’m not going to repost any of them here- I’m sure they’ll pop up in my Facebook feed eventually- but I’m pretty sure they might approximate my life right now.

I’m relocated to Amarillo until November. I have never been to Texas before, let alone the Panhandle. This is the first time I’ve paid my own bills, pumped my own gas (I never drove often enough, okay?), and had a job that was not somehow connected with my education. If I want to take a weekend trip someplace, that’s my decision. I’m the one paying for it. If I want to spend the entire day on the couch watching TLC, I can do it. No one is telling me to go do my laundry or wash the dishes or eat (or not eat) or run errands. It is up to me.

Nothing is keeping me from spending hours in Target, browsing the amazingness there. Like this display of journals!

Nothing is keeping me from spending hours in Target, browsing the amazingness there. Like this display of journals!

You don’t transition into the freedom and the responsibility. I don’t know if there’s a way to ease into it. How would that work? Your parents come and live with you for a little while, until you’re in a routine at work? You pay part of your bills, and they pay the other part, until gradually you have enough to cover it all on your own? At some point, though, you have to strike out by yourself. At some point, it needs to be you.

I’m liking the independence so far. I am proud of being able to pay off my credit card balance in full, and I’m going to keep that up for as long as possible (ideally, forever and ever). I’m happy that I got a workout in before I went into the office, four out of five days last week. There are other things I need to do, though. For instance, my benefits kick in next month- meaning there will be less money coming in from my paycheck. I need to budget for that, as well as for my upcoming student loan payments, and for savings. You know, the money that you put aside for big expenses later on, or (God forbid) for emergencies.

Living on your own is not just about finances, of course. What do you do in a new place, with no friends or family around? Technically, you can just stay in your hotel room or your apartment all the time. I mean, there’s enough on TV and Netflix and the Internet in general to keep you occupied for your entire life.

That sounds like a really easy way to drive me absolutely crazy. And also burn my eyes out- I already spend all day on the computer at work, so why rely on that at home?

So, I’ve gone shopping. I live five minutes from the mall, Target, and Barnes and Noble. That worked at the beginning of my stay, when I really needed a bunch of things, but now it’s just to wander around and get to know the area. I went to the farmers’ market on Saturday, which is a great way to chat with locals. I arrived a little late- I think I’ll really have to get there closer to its 7 AM opening- but the few people I talked with were very friendly. They also informed me that the occasional strong smell of cattle comes from the stockyards, where they auction and sell cattle. Sometimes, the wind picks it up and blows it all over town. Good to know.

I’ve also taken up more reading. I especially hope to take advantage of this once I have longer work days, and I need time to unwind. For now, it’s an excellent way to occupy myself. I love the Barnes and Noble- there’s a Starbucks cafe in there, and it’s a lovely place to get a sandwich and a coffee and read on Sunday afternoons.

Here's what I picked up my first week: TIME, Hyperbole and a Half, Half Broke Horses, No One Belongs Here More than You (short stories), and my uncle's lifestyle book, Strength + Simplicity. Plus the Notre Dame prayer book.

Here’s what I picked up my first week: TIME, Hyperbole and a Half, Half Broke Horses, No One Belongs Here More than You (short stories), and my uncle’s lifestyle book, Strength + Simplicity. Plus the Notre Dame prayer book.

That reading list up there helped me get through my first “rough” night. A big thunderstorm moved through town last week. It wasn’t technically severe, but there was strong winds, pouring rain, and constant thunder and lightning. One lightning strike somehow hit the hotel and threw off the alarm system. Suddenly my smoke alarm was chirping, the fire horn was going off intermittently, and the alarm lights in the hallway were flashing. And of course that was the night that I was settled into bed early, ready to get a good night’s sleep before an early morning workout. I don’t like thunderstorms, and I hate the sound of alarms. I got both in the same night, at the same time.

That’s another living-on-your-own life skill: self-soothing. Which is actually something we learn when we are babies, but it something we call upon and hone the whole rest of our lives. You can’t sit and whine and cry every time you encounter a stressful or uncomfortable situation. You also can’t totally internalize your stress and anxiety and bottle it up. Not healthy. So what do you do to manage it? That night, I read and I watched the Tonight Show. The next morning, I ate Nutella on toast. Self = soothed. It was a thunderstorm. It was an alarm. Life goes on. I’m a grown up.

Yup. That’s been my first two weeks here. If any of you hear that I’ve made friends with the Target or Barnes and Noble staff, that’s a sign that I need to find something else to do.

What do you love to do, all by yourself? How do you cure boredom? How do you like to get to know a new place?

With love,

Gaby

 

 

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Riding Solo and My Hotel Kitchen

So yesterday I talked about the few weeks of summer break I had before starting my job. And then I realized that I haven’t talked about my job on the blog yet!

Yes. I am employed! I have a salary and benefits and I mostly wear some kind of suit. I am a consultant with a fundraising consulting firm, working exclusively with nonprofits. I spent a week in Chicago in training and orientation. My friend E. gets HUGE thanks for housing me for the week in her apartment. We cooked and both got dressed up and went to work every morning like grownups. I took a bus and train to work each day. It was a fun little flashback to my commutes in Santiago (especially when I took the wrong bus route, but don’t worry, it was fine!).

This was a bonkers avocado pizza E. and I made my first night there. We demolished the whole thing ourselves.

This was a bonkers avocado pizza E. and I made my first night there. We demolished the whole thing ourselves.

The view from my window on the second day of training. To be clear: they just moved me to a different office because the computer in the first room wasn't cooperating. But I lucked out!

The view from my window on the second day of training. To be clear: they just moved me to a different office because the computer in the first room wasn’t cooperating. So I lucked out!

E. made delicious popsicles, which were the perfect way to cool down at the end of the night.

E. made delicious popsicles, which were the perfect way to cool down at the end of the night.

A view of the Sears Tower and other buildings from the walk into work from the train.

A view of the Sears Tower and other buildings from the walk into work from the train.

I really loved being in Chicago. I saw a few friends, I got to know my new coworkers, and I was pumped to be back in a big city among all of the noise and people and public transportation. But after just a week, I took a quick day at home, and then headed down to Tulsa, Oklahoma to shadow one of my firm’s projects. I don’t have any pictures from Tulsa. We worked and went out to eat, and I didn’t think to pull my phone out. Things I would have taken pictures of include: the Oral Roberts University campus (it is gold and shiny and 1980’s futuristic), the Arkansas River, the Brookside neighborhood, and the Art Deco downtown.

Then it was the 4th of July. I once again returned home for the weekend, and then I flew down to Amarillo, Texas, for my first assignment.

Yup. I am writing you from my hotel room in the Texas Panhandle. I’ll be here until November. Right now it is hot and dry, but they’re forecasting rain and cooler temps later this week, which gets the locals really excited and happy. Our client has very generously loaned me a pickup truck for my stay. It has provided much entertainment for family, friends, and acquaintances.

Last year, if you’d asked me where I thought I’d be right now, I never would have said in Texas, with a pickup. I would have guessed Chicago or DC or maybe even New York or Santiago. But here I am!

The next four months will be a whirlwind. Work will keep me more than busy Monday through Thursday. So I’m trying to enjoy these next couple of weeks while I try to establish some routines and learn my way around. I live within 10 minutes of a Catholic church, Target, Best Buy, Barnes and Noble, an excellent grocery store, and the mall. I pretty much have everything I need.

And even if I’m here without friends or family, if the past six days are any indication, they’re never far away with text messages, phone calls, and Facebook.

Blah blah blah, now I’m getting sappy. My temporary relocation does mean that I’ll be doing something new on the blog. And so, I introduce: My Hotel Kitchen.

I have a two-burner electric stove top, a microwave, one large and one small saucepan, and one large and one small sauté pan. I also have a very basic assortment of kitchen utensils. Take note: no oven. No cookie sheets. No non-stick pans. I can’t eat out every single day. I just can’t. We did in Tulsa and although every meal was delicious and not fast food, I felt a little gross at the end of the week. Grocery shopping this week was quite exciting, to say the least.

Every week, I’ll be prepping meals and sides for me to take for lunch and heat up for dinner. This week, for example, I made brown rice, a prepackaged quinoa mix, shrimp, and lemon garlic vinaigrette (for an adaptation of this recipe). I also have pasta, jarred tomato sauce, mixed greens, fruit, avocados (porque si hay pan y palta, hay comida), a whole rotisserie chicken, and chicken alfredo from the prepared food section of the grocery store (which is expansive and amazing). 

Why am I doing this? It’s healthier. I enjoy it. I’m learning to be resourceful- I can’t cook whatever I want because I don’t have all the tools, and I’m not going to buy them for a four-month stay. I also need to remember that I’m cooking and eating for one person, not an entire family. Cooking is just one of those things that young adults, on their own, have to learn how to do- like pay bills, save money, make new friends, and not stay up too late watching TV or surfing the Internet. You know, grown-up stuff.

If you’d like to follow along on Instagram (@gmtnunez), I’ll be using the hashtag #myhotelkitchen for my meals and meal prep. And you’ll find me back here each week, writing about my cooking adventures (like learning how to use PAM in the absence of Teflon pans) and exploring the Texas Panhandle. 

Should you have any great recipe or solo living suggestions, please let me know in the comments! 

See you soon! With love,

Gaby

 

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Overdue

In case you were wondering, I’m back in the States! I have been for nearly a month now. I was going to write on the plane, but then I got on a LAN flight and I got my own personal TV screen, which allowed me to entertain myself with Crazy Stupid Love and TV shows and The Sound of Music until I got sick with about three hours left on my flight. Then my flight landed just late enough that I couldn’t check my luggage onto my connecting flight, so I was rebooked on a later flight. I sat in the middle seat. I wasn’t gonna be that girl who pulls her laptop out and has her elbows everywhere. I was already the girl with the huge backpack. Then I arrived to cool and damp weather in Chicago. Which was essentially the same weather I left behind in Chile.

(Okay, obviously I haven’t outlined this post. I’m sorry.)

I had two marvelous and relaxing weeks at home. I got to run around my city a bit, enjoy some sunny but not too warm weather, see a few friends, bake a little, and of course hang out with my family. That last part is especially important when you realize that you’ve spent more time with your host family than your real family over the course of the past year.

On the way home.

On the way home.

Peach cobbler scones. Great decision. Pretty easy!

Peach cobbler scones. Great decision. Pretty easy!

Summer sunset.

Summer sunset.

Milwaukee, I love you.

Milwaukee, I love you.

So I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on this past trip and what I’ve learned from being abroad not once, but twice. Here is another short list of additions I’m adding to the Things I’ve Learned About Chile/Chileans:

1) Chileans spend time with people differently than Americans. They spend a lot of it, slowly and appreciatively.

2) A significant number of guys are into the dreadlock rattail. Like a mullet, but the back of your head ends in a dreadlocked rattail. My immediate reactions are to be disgusted, and then to cut the thing off. What’s hilarious though is when these guys work the dreadlock rattail with a suit on. It’s quite the dichotomy, let me tell you. (Guys my age also enjoy regular mullets. I tell you, there are certain aspects of Chilean fashion that remain stuck in the 80’s and 90’s.)

3) Chileans love their gossip. Oh, can they be gossipy. I make no judgments about this. I’m just saying. They love a juicy story.

4) From what I can tell, they appreciate really cheesy Bon Jovi songs. No, like the bad songs. Like this one.

5) They are always talking about the weather. Bad weather, mostly. Like how cold it is. Or how hot it is, come summer. We enjoyed comparing how cold our homes were in my office this winter. Most days started with, “pero hace un frío…) I’ve been there for long enough that now I, too, talk about it all. the. time.

6) Chilean guys do not know how to handle a girl who is just goofing off and having a good time on the dance floor. You know the girl. You’re not sure if you can really call what she’s doing dancing, but she’s certainly moving and enjoying the music and having a blast. But if you’re not gyrating and looking sultry, if you’re just messing around with your girlfriends, it is a rare Chilean chico who will approach you to take part in such dancing. (Bummer for los chilenos. It happens to be a lot more fun and takes less effort.) (American guys: you get a bad rap for your lack of dancing skills compared to the Latin Americans. But you are much better at goofing off on the dance floor. Score one for all of you!)

7) I remain amazed by the ability of Chilean women to carry their babies around without car carriers, without strollers, without even those strap-on carriers. Many women just cradle their babies wrapped up in several layers of blankets, all day long, all over public transportation. I deeply admire this skill and closeness.

I’ve also learned a lot about myself in this collective eight months of travel. I am really good at respecting my limits, almost to a fault, if that’s possible. I don’t like pushing them in the States, much less in a foreign country. When it’s time for me to go home for the night, it’s time. I value my sleep. When I get comfortable in certain parts of a city, I don’t like to leave them very often. I put safety first. I’ll pay for a cab alone without hesitating rather than take the bus by myself.

Once in a while, I need to be alone, even just for a couple of hours. I remember that right around Father’s Day, my family had to go to the colegio for some event. So that morning, I got on the bus and went by myself to the mall for a couple of hours. It was exactly what I needed. I love people, and I love to share stories more than anything else in the world. But I need time to myself to process it all and recharge. This is an excellent thing to know about myself now, because I can sense when I need to pull back and keep to myself for a little bit.

I appreciate hugs and physical affection. Verbal affirmations, physical proximity, and hugs or even brief shoulder pats make me feel safe and liked. (Needy, I know. I’m working on it.)

A big thing I learned over the summer was about how I work. I work best in short, focused bursts. This is when I am the most effective. Give me a list of things that need to be done with a deadline. The deadline is key. The closer, the better for most assignments. If I only have a few things to do in a day, and they’re all low priority with distant deadlines, you can bet that that will be a slow and unproductive day for me. I thrive with pressure. Not overwhelming amounts of it, of course, but it’s just the push that I need.

Having two families is awesome. It’s an immense and unexpected blessing to have two sets of really funny, genuine, loving people to lean on and who lean back on you. It’s also quite challenging when they live on two different continents thousands of dollars worth of plane rides apart. Saying goodbye gets a little bit easier every time. The uncertainty of the return to Chile is always difficult (side note: I’m listening to Francisca Valenzuela as I write this, and I almost just typed in difícil. #bilingualproblems), but then I remember this amazing thing called the Internet which allows me to use about four or five different tools to keep in touch with everyone all the way down there.

Life moves on. It moves forward. I left my Chilean house with another great student from my school there for the semester. I came back here to my real family and now I’m back on campus, starting off my senior year as an RA in my dorm. You won’t be able to hear that much about those experiences in the interests of privacy, of course. But I can tell you that the training experience was great and that I’m so excited to start this adventure with the team that I have at my back. These girls are rock stars. I couldn’t have asked for better. All of the emotions about missing Chile and missing Milwaukee and loving school somehow balance out. Or they all surge up all at once and I just throw my hands up and soldier through it.

So chew on that for a while folks. I hope I’ll have another post about who knows what to you soon.

With love,

Gaby

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Leftovers

Every once in a while I look over my blog journal and pull out a theme that’s been running through my entries/notes but hasn’t quite made it into a blog post yet. Here’s what’s been lurking around lately.

What I'm doing right now at this moment. Warm brownie and melty banana caramel ice cream. Get at me.

What I’m doing right now at this moment. Warm brownie and melty banana caramel ice cream. Get at me.

Why and how does time fly by so fast? I’m looking at less than a month until I go back to the States. WHAT? WHEN did that happen? I’m not dealing with it right now. Nope. Not gonna.

I talked about it the other day with a coworker on the metro, and he said part of it has to do with the fact that we have such a long commute each day. It takes me on average an hour to get to and from work, from the moment I step out my door to the moment I walk in my office, and vice versa. That’s two hours a day. Then there are meal times. I lose about two hours a day just sitting at a table eating and talking, more or less. Okay, so there’s four hours gone. Then the eight, eight and a half hours I work. Then factor in six to seven hours of sleep. Then it takes me about an hour to get out the door from when I wake up in the morning. That leaves me with FOUR FREE HOURS each weekday. Granted, my weekends are entirely free. I have no homework. It’s amazing. But those days pass by in the blink of an eye! What gives?

(Side note 1: how do we feel about all caps? Is it an effective tool to add emphasis? Or is it cliché?)

I think it also goes by faster when you already know everything- when you’re not learning the culture, the customs, the language, the metro, the neighborhood. When you already know all of that, you cruise, and then it’s almost like living anywhere else.

So how do you let go of worrying about time? How do you really live in the present? Do you just ignore how quickly time is flying by, keep living your life the way you usually would, and then when it’s time to leave, besos, chau chau! Do you make an extra effort to take advantage of EVERYTHING to the point of exhaustion and remain hyperconscious of time? Or is it a zen vibe, where you just find the balance and somehow find yourself liberated of the pressures of deadlines and departure dates?

(Side note 2: can you tell how exhausting it can be to live in my head?)

Lots of rain and then lots of sun equals this.

Lots of rain and then lots of sun equals this.

I can already see that it’s going to be harder this time to leave. I still want to go home. I miss summer. I miss the festivals and the long days and the grilled food and the pool and running and shorts and so much more. I miss my family and my friends. But my roots got even deeper this time. It became a little bit more like real life. I built relationships here that will continue when I go home, but they won’t be the same. Don’t underestimate the importance of place to a relationship. I’m already trying to figure out when I can come back again. I wonder what a longer- as in, a year or more- stay would be like. And I ask myself what I would be willing to give up in order to make that happen.

No, dears, before anyone gets worried: I am not having a wild fling with a Chilean, I haven’t been offered a job, I have nothing to keep me here yet. But I think that these are questions that we ask ourselves when we live somewhere else, somewhere that is not “home,” for a long period of time.

This view impressed me for some reason.

This view impressed me for some reason. Doesn’t the sky just look big?

One big thought that I had today while outlining this post was this: people keep on living their lives when you’re not there with them. And you must keep living yours too.

Cloudy Day 2

The clouds started to move out of that last picture.

This whole concept of time and distance and growing up and what happens when they all mix together can be overwhelming for a highly analytic and hyperaware person like myself. Writing about it helps me. I truly appreciate how you all listen to my stories and stay interested in what’s happening in my life. Thank you.

Everything is great! If it weren’t, I don’t think I’d be so concerned with how quickly time is flying by. Let’s focus on the good little things to close this talk out, shall we?

The heating pad on my bed (you do not know what comfortable feels like until you rub your legs against warm sheets. It was a revelation.). Ponchos. Parkas (There’s a theme here.). Agua de hierbas. Carbonada and cazuela. Instant oatmeal (I’ve been cold, okay?). The buena onda of strangers and new acquaintances. Having neatly painted nails. Piscola. Scrambled eggs, Chilean style (I’ve almost got it down and I’m thrilled.). Warm, dry hands. New boots. Clean towels. Skype.

And THIS SKY.

And THIS SKY.

As always, thanks for listening. I love hearing from you, so please do not hesitate to leave a comment or a question!

Besos,

Gaby

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