We are now well past the mark for the longest either of us have been away from family or from the U.S. From here on out is uncharted territory. Mentally and emotionally I think we’re back up to a higher point than the 3-month mark. The language comes easier everyday and not every sentence has to be thought-out thoroughly before said. We feel like we have some community here with the Sisters, the other volunteers, and the girls at the Hogar. We are slowly making acquaintances with co-workers and some young people we’ve met through the Sisters. Making real ‘friends’ is very difficult though. Besides work and grocery shopping, we don’t really leave the compound.
We are feeling like we’re ‘missing’ more back home as time goes on as well. Babies are born, friends get engaged, and we’re missing a big wedding season this summer. But also during that time we have been gaining a better understanding of people’s lives in Montero by being here with them day in and day out. It’s a very different feeling than a 2-week or even 2-month service trip. We are trying to approach it differently also. Though we do often think about our eventual return to the states, we are attempting to make this our life while we’re here. Not that we paused our life to come down here for an experience, but that this IS us and we have nothing waiting for us at home except visits to family and friends.
What has changed over these past 6 months? Well, we achieved our one-year residency visa (finally finished the process on Feb. 9 when we got our government identity cards). We can successfully maneuver the transportation systems to get ourselves just about anywhere and have forgotten what’s it’s like to have a car. We have a daily and weekly schedule so that we know approximately what is going on most of the time. We have switched to brushing our teeth with the tap water although we still drink bottled water. We feel very comfortable and at-home in our house here. We are accustomed to rice at every meal and eating with tablespoons out of wide and low bowls. (The teaspoon-sized spoon we use in the US isn’t commonly used here. Also bowl in spanish is literally “deep plate” and that’s what they look like.) We are also accustomed to our breakfast of bread and our two-part lunch of soup and a second. We have a wide range of foods that we’ve learned how to cook here, and are getting by just fine in our small and scantily-stocked kitchen. We’ve become accustomed to always having a bottle of sprite, coca-cola and peach juice in our fridge, and to always having a dozen bananas on our counter. It is no longer a novelty to look up and see a lizard crawling on the wall and we really don’t miss our TV that much. And interestingly, it has not been that hard to get used to owning nothing but the things we brought down here with us and living our lives in service to the people around us, receiving nothing in return but our food. It’s just an accepted fact of daily life now.
I will say we’re used to constantly having dogs around, but we’re still not particularly pleased about it. We understand it’s necessary for safety though. And we’re even accustomed to seeing stray dogs wander through church during mass, although it does still make me chuckle, particularly the one that got in line on Ash Wednesday for ashes. I have now, 100%, become a facebook stalker as that is how I try to stay updated with all the happenings back home. And, it’s always an amazing reminder of small the world really is when I can call my mom on her cellphone from my computer here in Montero.
Things we still miss from the US include food, good live music, comfortable chairs/couches, fast Internet, and indoor climate control. But as we are learning here, those are things you can live without.