And, I’m back! Sort of — back in Mexico, anyway, though the chest cold we brought down with us, the mold and ticks we came home to and the culture shock that gets me no matter how many times we cross the border have me reengaging slowly between naps and mugs of tea.
My break was so full I hardly know where to begin. Before I share a few highlights, I’d like to welcome those of you who are new here (seems a nice little mess of you found me over the holidays!), thank all of you whose comments I’ve yet to respond to for your patience, and offer my intentions for the new year:
I’ll be visiting these in greater detail soon (I’m scrapping my normal writing schedule for the week), but first I thought I’d share a few seasonal highlights by breaking my vacation down into projects, places, people and provisions.
I completed most of what I set out to accomplish before Christmas. I made stockings from my favorite worn linen table cloth and vintage scraps (though I only embellished one of them as of yet), and still have enough left to cover my ironing board.
I knit mittens for Sigorni from a favorite Merino, though she only unwrapped one Christmas morning (not the first time I’ve given the gift of a single mitten and the promise of a mate!) This may be my new favorite fingerless mitten pattern for the close fit, the fun thumb gusset and the fact that they knit up so quickly.
I repurposed a favorite skirt that was too small for Eli into a sweet little apron (I could probably be persuaded to create a tutorial if anyone’s interested)…
…and began a small wardrobe of clothes for Estella’s two babies from her own baby clothes and an old cloth diaper left here by her cousin (doll clothes patterns to come). As a side note, it’s rather ironic that my last girl has two (and only two) babies and that they are both plastic. Not that I’m anti-plastic babies, just that I have made countless Waldorfy dolls for my girls (and sold dozens more) all of whom are stored away in our Austin garage. Nevertheless, she loves her babies, I love that I’ve let go of the need for their toys to fit my ideals and they’d been naked long enough.
Despite the fact that we live in a beach town, we don’t exactly live on the beach — that is, until we have a good excuse to. An anniversary, eighteenth birthday and all the family together were perfect justifications for nearly 10 straight days seaside. Have I told you how much my heart expands when my girls are all together? Homecomings have taken on a whole new meaning, as I imagine some of you understand deeply. Four bowls of breakfast, four attitudes to temper long enough to snap a good photo, four heads to count in the waves? It fills me like nothing else.
Our trip to Austin began with a stop at the camera store!!!!!!! (Busting out the exclamation points for that one.) Until now I’ve been using a 6-year-old point and shoot Cannon and dreaming of something a little more…awesome. My new Nikon SLR (D3200) fits the bill nicely. (Any more souped up and I might just choke on an f-stop). It was a sweet first week of getting to know him (my camera is clearly a guy) while relishing in Texas Winter.
Hands down, the biggest void we feel in Mexico is for our incredible community of friends and family in Austin. We hardly made a dent in the pool of people we wanted to see, but you can only cram so many good folks into a week. We trust that those of you we missed know that we love you, we hold you close and look forward to next time.
I thought you might enjoy knowing the things we stock up on while stateside. We generally pack light for the trip up (with suitcases inside bigger suitcases) and then bring back a fairly hefty load of “necessities” (though somehow all the locals seems to get along just fine without quinoa), niceties (apparently Mexican women are freaked out by tampons) and delicacies (Sierra Nevada Pale Ale now comes in cans). Here’s a few more things we often bring down:
It isn’t that you can’t find some of these things here (pretty sure most Mexicans wear underwear) but so many of the products are so dang cheap (that is, they’re crappy and easily fall apart) health food items are few and far between and imported electronics and name brands are WAY expensive. Seems China has her hands in this place in a big way and sends poorly made goods by the boatload. We’ve learned this quickly with shoes that lasted a week and lime juicers that broke on the second squeeze.
Passing through customs is always fun. We never actually “claim” any of it, as doing so simply ensures that every bag will be thoroughly inspected and no one ever seems bothered by the few questionable items we try and sneak in (they totally missed my kambucha mushroom last time!)
This time around, we were quite impressed by the customs agent who knew his grains. Based on their potential for cultivation, he confiscated our quinoa and french green lentils but allowed us the steel cut oats and Israeli couscous. Then, apologizing and grimacing as he threw them in the trash, he proceeded to explain where in Cancun we might find such exotic grains and other such foodie pleasures. Not exactly your average Mexican customs agent.
So, now we’re “home” again — though the concept becomes more and more abstract with each border crossing. Home where we live slow, surrounded by rich local culture, realities (pleasant and otherwise) right out in the open (the way I prefer it), neighborhoods lively with street culture and abundant natural beauty. The “home” we just left offers other things we so appreciate: an abundance of friendships and family, opportunities and connections, familiarity and ease of interaction and alternative (cleaner and greener) products and services (though it’s mostly our people we long for).
It’s getting trickier and trickier to have both the longer we’re here. It’s heavy to hold — the reality of living two worlds. Pre-internet and affordable airfare, living abroad must have been so different. Even during our travels in college, when expensive pay-per-minute phone cards were the only option for staying in touch, it seemed a little more natural — because it was one or the other at a time. Now, it seems, we are the guinea pigs for truly global living and I gotta say, it’s kind of hard (which probably explains why we’ve met so few expat families actually living here.) We want local living within a global community with access to all our goods? That’s a pretty tall order (and very U.S. come to think of it).
But, we’re here now, it’s a pretty sweet place to be if only for a time and it won’t always be this way (the place nor our part in it). We’ve both expanded and challenged our need for and sense of presence by choosing life abroad. I suppose just as many of you who are rooted long for wings. So many such ironies in this crazy-beautiful life, aren’t there?
Hasta luego, Austin! Until next time…
On another note: Have resolutions you’d really like to see stick? Check out my post from last year this time, How to Give Depth and Holding Power to This Year’s Resolutions.