We arrived in Miami to well-organized, polite, efficient processing through Passport Control, Customs, and baggage-claim. Sure, we occasionally had to walk around a fresh pool of someone's purged motion sickness (feel better now?), but that was considerately cordoned off with orange cones. Now it's not fair to compare this experience to entering Ecuador, because residents are always treated better than foreigners, but it is refreshing to have at least a sense of order.
We stayed in Miami for a day with our friends, who are also magnificent hosts. I say this because Mike treated us first to beer. To say it was great beer is to first diminish the fact that it was not Pilsner or Club, the two ubiquitous Ecuadorian brews. Choice. Remarkable. And Mike offered us a choice for dinner, which included steak or lobster, or steak and lobster. Or maybe it was just the illusion of choice, but included with the illusion was delicious wine and salad—actual salad, with various greens, chopped vegetables, and dressing.
Betsy and Mike asked Piper what she thought of returning to this country. "Good," she said, and then coyly walked over to me and whispered in my ear, "But it doesn't feel like another country." Miami is indeed a soft re-entry, which Mike calls North Havana. In the airport, the unique and attention-grabbing Latin fashion (painted-on spandex, precipitous high heels, determined breasts, and copius bling) abounds as it does in Ecuador. And I realized, after the fact, that the whole conversation I had with the clerk at the snack stand in order to get change to make a phone call was in Spanish, which she initiated.
The beach was trash free and beautiful, but there were no guys pedaling ceviche carts (selling mussels they simply go in the water to replenish, once they've run out). The driving was like buttah, with smooth and orderly infrastructure and drivers actually using the lines that the government went to all the trouble of having painted on the roads (we wondered why they bothered to spend the money in Ecuador).
We ate a delicious Asian lunch. One of the peculiar things in Ecuador was that, though there are Chinese restaurants (as there are in all parts of the world), we never found one that actually tasted like the Chinese food found in all other parts of the world. But, though the green curry was very good, the actual chicken in it had more the consistency of packing peanuts, without any of their flavor. I still miss EcuaChicken. And there's a price for good food: we paid $50 for food that is no better (though more diverse) than an Ecuadorian almuerzo, which would have cost us about $8.
After lunch we went to a playground where Piper again appreciated being home, as we noted that we were about the only English speakers there. But we don't stand out so much in a crown here. As Piper said, "At least nobody's gonna stare at us here."
I initially appreciated hot showers available at all times that don't turn cold when anyone in the building turns on their tap. But then I realized I was spending less time in the shower in Ecuador, and therefore out living my life. But, I still manage to appreciate hot showers, even if it means sacrificing a few minutes of my life a day to hedonism.
I searched in vain for a knife sharpener in Ecuador. I just mean the one you usually have in your knife collection that is actually just a de-burring stone. I could only ever find real knife sharpening services that are overkill for your everyday kitchen needs. And so even with a sharp knife it wasn't much time before I was squishing tomatoes while trying to cut them. Yeah, OK, I won't try to explain to you the little things in my life that really float my boat, but sharp knives is one of them.
There is only one fruit in the States that we found is better than Ecuador. Oranges are more tart and not as sweet in Ecuador. So now I can appreciate oranges and orange juice here.
Snow! Any fears that the kids or we would have a tough time re-entering during the coldest winter months after a year and a half of spring were put to the test our first day in Denver. Ten inches of snow dropped on the city, and we had to scramble to put together some winter protection before the kids bounced themselves right out the door in excitement.
|I know the newspaper's here somewhere|
Christmas in Cuenca is something people from all over Ecuador come to see. It is beautiful, with its own traditions mingled with some of the more popular ones from around the world (Papa Noel). But for us, of course, it lacks some essential Christmas ingredients: cold, if not snow; real Christmas trees, carols we recognize; and family. We had great friends in Ecuador and met amazing people. Sometimes we'd get frustrated with things in Ecuador, because we didn't have the cultural experience to understand them. And we'd privately wonder how some people, having lived part of their lives in the States, would prefer to live in Ecuador. And the most simple and basic reason is, of course, because it is home. Our home is not better, but we see it differently because it is our home.
So what we most appreciate about coming back, is just being home.