Holding on to memories

It’s hard to believe, but this weekend will mark two and a half months since I’ve been back from South America.

The excitement, the euphoric high of having traversed through five countries and begun to master another language, is starting to wear off, and the frustrations of every day life, and the real world, are creeping in.

I’m distracted and stressed out by all the dumb little stuff again — fender benders, shlepping to doctors appointments, running errands, filing my taxes, and the joys of spending my afternoons sitting in traffic, aggravated with LA drivers and knowing that gas is over $4.15 a gallon. It’s easy to forget that only three months ago I was jumping out of an airplane over Argentina, riding in a jeep across the Bolivian desert, and sipping amazing wine in Mendoza.

A few days ago, my gold Ray Band (no, that’s not a typo) aviators that I bought on the streets of Arequipa for $3 fell out of my hand onto the sidewalk, one of the lenses cracking half from the fall. I was oddly devastated. Not just because it’s nearly impossible for me to find sunglasses that flatter my face, but because of all the amazing things I saw through those lenses half a world away. I was suddenly overwhelmed with thoughts of all of the incredible people I interacted with, whether for 5 minutes or 5 days, whom I’d met in those sunglasses. Of course the memories didn’t break or get thrown out with my glasses, but it made me realize how easy it is to forget all of the little moments and interactions I cherished over the 3 months I was gone.

In an effort not to lose those moments (thanks Dad for genetically dooming me with your terrible memory), I wanted to think back on, and share, a few random memories from my travels.

– On one of the overnight bus rides I took through Bolivia, I ended up next to an older gentleman who found out I could speak some basic Spanish and so he began to talk (and talk, and talk) to me. I’d just hurt my foot, and had to cancel my trip to the rainforest because no flights were taking off, so was in no mood to converse, let alone in Spanish. But this man kept talking, kept pushing to ask questions about my life in the U.S., about what my parents do, about why living at home close to your family isn’t common in America. He told me all about his daughters, his family, his past working for the Bolivian military. I only understood about half of what he was saying, and even though internally, in that moment, I was less than thrilled to be talking and not getting some sleep, thinking back, his excitement to communicate with a foreigner and hear about my life was endearing, and I’m thankful for that conversation.

– I remember so vividly the Bolivian night sky on the second night of my Salar tour. It was the type of December night where no matter how many layers you had on, the cold sank directly into your bones, but I was so infatuated with the bright stars that I just stood outside our hostel straining my neck, in awe with the glittering galaxies in the distance. It had been years since I’d really spent time just looking at the night sky, and I’d missed that feeling.

– Down in Bariloche, I rented a car with three guys I’d met in my hostel, and we drove several hundred kilometers in a day through the area’s lake region. At one of our many stops, we walked off the road a ways and stumbled upon a serene river that looked eerily similar to Early Intake, a river surrounded by high rocks not far from the summer camp I went to. In that moment, I had a sudden, unexpected flood of childhood camp memories, and felt overcome by a truly cliche, warm and fuzzy feeling.

– My first home stay in Manta, Ecuador, was with a very sweet family whom I desperately wanted to communicate with, but since it was only my second week studying Spanish, my vocabulary was rather unimpressive. We couldn’t say a whole lot to each other, but they had two little dogs, Arnold and Bruno, so we bonded over feeding and playing with them instead.

– On vacation, my joy didn’t have to come from complex emotions or places – it often came from the most basic things. After hours of hiking and sweating and wearing the same clothes for days on end, I appreciated a simple hot shower, clean laundry, and a twin sized, bottom bunk bed more than anything. On afternoons where I could have been doing anything, sitting in the sun with my book and a glass bottle of Coca Cola was all I could have wanted. It’s easy to forget the simple joys – I miss those moments.


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