Nostalgia… It’s the beating heart of memory that keeps us appreciative of all our past experiences. One of the sharpest pangs of nostalgia surprisingly comes on with the beginning of fall and the beginning of summer. Living in a climate that doesn’t have distinct changes in season can really make you appreciate the places from which you came or went. Especially living in a microclimate near the equator.
Here in Pereira, Colombia we get a couple rainy seasons and a couple “almost-dry” seasons however there are at least a couple months out of the year where the weather does cool off almost enough to notice. Generally speaking Pereira does maintain the same average temperature and weather most of the year. It goes like this:
- Rain: rainy days are a bit cooler, you can still wear shorts but you might need a sweatshirt and tennis shoes versus sandals and a tank top….bring the umbrella.
- Sun: After the rain it can get quite hot and muggy if it is not overcast so find shade and take off the sweatshirt while regretting you didn’t just wear sandals… Now you are stuck with an umbrella you only needed for the 15 minute downpour and wondering if maybe getting wet or camping out at a café would have been better.
- Cloudy: Median temperature, shorts are still wearable unless it is the month of May where it does seem to cool off enough for light pants or capris but when the sun comes out you will wish you had shorts on.
7 things I miss about the USA:
1. Pumpkin Pie
At the time of this post we are in the month of November and nothing screams fall like a fresh pumpkin pie! One of my favorite desserts I froth at the mouth just thinking about how freakin amazing this one thing tastes and how much I miss it. Pumpkins aren’t really attainable here in Colombia….I saw some sort of orange decorative pumpkin briefly at a supermarket around Halloween but I was afraid to buy and cook something that was labeled “decorative” in the supermarket. When I went back to the US this last July my mom cooked me pumpkin pie the whole time I was there…it was amazing. I didn’t get enough however cause I would probably break down in tears or go nuts if I actually found a can of canned pumpkin in the import section of the supermarket.
2. Crisp Fall Weather
Leaves changing, bonfires, wine walks and outdoor festivals are all common occurrences this time of year around the US. I have been blessed to live and appreciate several of the “leaf-changing” climates during previous travels and my years in Missouri. I even miss raking leaves. In Nevada where I grew up there isn’t very much leaf-change but when you do go outside the air has that crisp edge to it and all your friends who ski start buying new gear. I prefer sledding.
3. The Lake
There is a lake-going culture in my home country that people down here just don’t “get.” During the work-week many Americans pass their time day-dreaming about their weekend adventure. At least a good percentage of them dream about their weekend- getaways at the Lake/River/Creek/Pool. I lived for Friday when I could come home, pack up my sleeping bag, beer cooler, food cooler and bolt for the nearest large body of water. In Nevada we have several lakes and you can choose according to weather, water temperature and lake sports which one you want. In Missouri we fish for Bass and swim in the creek! In Colombia we go to a man-made “pool park” and swim or “take sun” (tanning). There is one river that we go to but it’s just not quite the same since we have to take a bus or taxi. Hmm, do I pack food or do I bring a chair….tough choice.
4. Drum Circles or Jam Sessions
I doubt everyone has this on their “things I miss about my country” list but it’s a necessary part of mine. On full moon nights it is invigorating to get together with a mish mash of like-minded folks and either jam out on the instruments or play drums under the full moon sky. In Missouri we went to a very special private campground and played music from dusk to dawn. In Nevada we went to Full Moon Drum Gatherings and played the rhythm our hearts told us to. Whenever I go back for visits I always make sure I am there during the full moon.
I could have covered this when I mentioned the lake but I think it deserves special attention. In Colombia dirty hippies, people with cars and guerillas camp. The rest of us go to farms that offer lodging or other cities on our free time. That is not to say I wouldn’t camp if given the chance, it’s just not as culturally available and there are no bathroom facilities run by the park department. I think I went camping for the first time before I ever even knew how to walk, ask my parents. It is an All-American coming of age rite that families go camping at some point. Even if those families prefer to take their RV’s or travel trailers, either way good Americans (even Democrats) camp. We camp in front of Best Buy, the White House and in the forest. It’s an apple-pie type of tradition.
6. Thanksgiving Day
I am not a big Christmas type, other Americans are but I’m not. However I have always felt that celebrating Thanksgiving was my American duty to God and Country. We get so annoyed with our families and stressed out by our mothers during the preparation, but that moment where we sit down and say prayer before the meal is sacred. For some people NFL Thanksgiving Football is sacred but for me it’s that moment when we all gather for 5 minutes of peace right before the big meal. I miss American Thanksgiving. Here in Colombia I am doing my best to plan a Thanksgiving feast but the Brits don’t quite get it and you can’t buy Cranberries, Sweet Potatoes or Pumpkin. It’s rough.
The hardest part of all is being more than a day’s drive by car from family. In the USA we love to run away from our families but cherish coming home to them too. Becoming a mother has made me appreciate my parents in a way I never imagined. There is something about taking that step into motherhood that changes how we look at our own parents. I cried for the first time when leaving back in July. I had realized that the next time I saw my mother I would be one and it scared me. I was in line for security bawling my eyes out while fiercely protecting my last pumpkin pie from being damaged during the scanner check in the San Francisco Airport. Family is where it all starts and ends. We wouldn’t be here without our family and nothing reminds us of that like another language and culture. To be fair, my husband and yet unborn child are family too but I hope baby Daniel gets to know his American family in the years to come.
Not much else to say, the expat life is fun, exciting and adventurous. However, it is very human to feel the pull of our home culture and country from time to time. When expats come home after our long absences we might partake in bizarre obsessions like seeing how many pumpkin pies we can eat in only 3 weeks time. We are always excited to leave, excited to see new places and live new lives but we will always feel that tug. Americans are not famous for leaving their home country and up until 9/11 it was almost unheard of for us to expatriate permanently or even denounce our citizenship. However economic recession, political change and ongoing warfare has made some of us decide it is time to seek greener pastures where we can still live our American dreams. For now until the forseeable future I do not see the American Dream as being something you can find inside the United States. For some people their situations are good and they have that luxury of remaining on home turf. However job availability, lower costs of living and less government control and/or regulation has driven some of us to places like Colombia where we now pursue our American Dreams… in Spanish-speaking expat havens.