One Year Later
A year ago (one year and three days, to be precise) I moved out west. Today, I sat in traffic while gazing loopily and happily out the window of a taxi. I don't think I've ever been happier to be home. I've been traveling. A lot. I don't really mean to complain, the travel is a good thing about the job, but oof. There wasn't quite enough breathing room between these last two trips. About an hour after getting home (just enough time to grab a shower and fulfill my fantasy of the past few days to curl up on my own bed) I crossed the street to my neighborhood grocery store to grab some dinner. On the way I passed the guy who runs the coffee joint across the street. "Hey - nice to see you! You're just back right? Honduras?" "Close - Guatemala." "Oh, right, right. Well, cheers! See you soon!" (he will see plenty of me soon, as I plan to camp out at his vaguely-euro-style coffee shop for ample world cup viewing)
I have fallen slightly short of the goal I set for myself when I took this job, but I'm not complaining. In May '09 I had visited 7 countries - Canada, Mexico, Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, The Bahamas. I was aiming to double that number by May '10, but I'll settle quite happily for an additional 4 - Colombia, South Korea (though an overnight layover shouldn't really count), Nepal, and Guatemala.
On the subject of travel, I have to say, I rather wish my co-workers would stop putting me in un-marked cars in countries where taking 'gypsy' cabs is *really* dangerous. The first time actually was a bad idea, but everything worked out ok. The second time everything was on the up and up - a co-worker had called a driver she trusted, who used to drive a cab, and now rents out his cabs and drives his own personal car. But when you don't speak the language, it can be kind of difficult to suss out the situation. And I could really do without the extra blood pressure points.
Guatemala, in general, was a great trip. But I have to say it's one of the more challenging places I've been. Several of my hosts warned me that everyday street crime is so frequent, it's unsafe to take your camera out on the street (which was really a shame, as Guatemala City has some really interesting graffiti). And guns have always made me uncomfortable, but I'm sort of used to large guns in certain contexts - I saw M16s in Italy in the '90s, and hell, these days the cops in Times Square carry them. AK47s are the weapon of choice among police/military/security in many (most?) developing countries. But I have to confess to being distracted every time I saw a security guard/police person in Guatemala with a pump action shotgun and a bandolier of bullets. In no context were any of these weapons brandished or threatening, and certainly the locals didn't seem to pay them much mind. But I couldn't help noticing them.
Back to One Year Later
So. It's been a year. One year of having a jobby-job. One year of being a west coaster. This does feel like home, sort of, and especially on days like today when I've been missing my own bed and potable tap water. Especially on days when I'm reminded that not only do I have a local coffee shop where they know me, they know me well enough to (almost) remember salient details from a conversation from three weeks ago. I still gawk in pleasant surprise that I get to live somewhere as beautiful as northern california, but I'm told by many that even after decades that doesn't wear off. I definitely don't feel any more like a grown-up. Probably because I still work nights and weekends and at least a couple of days a week from my pajamas on the couch. I do feel more...ownership (for lack of a better word) at work. More like I've figured out the ropes, my place on the team...I'm more comfortable offering my own opinions without feeling the need to defer to folks who've been around longer.
So. There's that. Happy one year anniversary to me!