Our last week in Valparaíso was a week full errands, packing, but mostly goodbyes; lunch goodbyes, late night dinners, and folks just dropping by to wish us well. We felt the abundance of the relationships we had developed over the year. It was sad but also made us realize how rich our lives had become in Valparaíso, filled with a community that had been willing to cross cultural and language barriers and befriend a family of foreigners. These friends will always be special to us and hopefully we can keep in touch. Hasta pronto.
I also finished my last mosaic project. I couldn’t leave Valpo without leaving a bit of public art and a gift to our property owners and good friends, Bart and Marcela - so I installed a mural of a garden scene on the wall in our front patio. It made for some late nights the last week, but all was a labor of love.
We also were able to see some friends that had just arrived to Chile for the holidays. Artie and Margie had welcomed us to Chile last January and helped us connect with some great folks in Chile, so it was fun to visit with them and play in their pool before we left.
Also, we met up Carolyn Bain and family - my old friend from Peace Corps Dominican Republic days. Carolyn's husband Victor is Chilean and they lived for many years in Santiago. Now they are back in Seattle, but visit Victor's folks. Carolyn's kids, Sofí and Nicolás, are the same age as Grace and Theo and it was fun to hear the bilingual banter as we all went out for some pizza.
Somehow in the midst of all that we got all packed up and headed to the airport on December 24th. Twenty-seven hours later we were back in Minneapolis, in the warm embrace of our welcome party, Jackie and Mary (Dan’s and my mom).
Our first week back has been a mix. Our days have been filled with family and we have just luxuriated in the company of grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. We have mostly stayed at Jackie’s home and have just started the job of unpacking our house. Our house was broken into one morning while we had yet to move most things back. Kind of a rude awakening to life back in the States, but not much was taken and no one was hurt. It's nice to see our house again, but also it doesn't quite feel like our home yet. We have all been surprised by space – everything feels big; houses, cars, lawns, grocery stores. Our house feels cavernous – four floors of house and storage and we lived in the equivalent of one of those floors while abroad. The snow has finally come and it's thrilling to see, but we miss the balmy winds of Chilean summer. We’ve walked around the lake, driven the streets around our house, passed well-known landmarks, but it still feels as if we are re-familiarizing ourselves with everything.
We've traded our walking everywhere to driving everywhere; which is kind of a bummer but just how it is in Minnesota, especially in winter. We still don't have a home phone or internet or a radio set up, so there is a lot of quiet. Valparaíso was always noisy; stray dogs, the ocean, fog horns, microbuses honking their horns, late night gatherings, the apartment above and below us. It's winter quiet here. Houses are far apart and noise is muffled by the snow.
We spent our first night at our house and we all loved being back in our beds! Gracie lost herself in playing and replaying all her old piano music. Every time she passes by the piano, she sits to play again. Theo recovered a couple items from the attic, including his zoom mobiles building set; in which he proceeded to completely lose himself, building new design after new design. It's also wonderful to hear the kids giggling away while playing with cousins or the grandmas. Such pleasures of being home.
We have yet to connect with friends, but look forward to doing that little by little as we continue to settle in.
We have some post scripts we need to do to finish up documenting our year in Chile, in particular we have some posts from our trip in Peru that I would like to put up before we close up the blog. We haven't decided whether we'll close up the blog permanently now, start a new blog for occasional family updates, or what. Feel free to send suggestions. But for now, happy new year to all of you. Thanks for accompanying us this past year. Let's hope 2012 holds lots of adventure for all of us as well.
-Laura and family