My First Day Back and the Water is Fine
When I was a floaty-wing-wearing, seaweed-fearing toddler swimming in the lake for the first time, I learned a universal truth: Water may feel cold as you dip your toes in, but it can begin to feel warm if you tread water for long enough. In fact, the water can become so warm that the air actually starts to feel cold by comparison and you never want to get out.
Now that I’m a young adult who needs no floaties (but still fears seaweed), I am finding that this principle of relativity and adaptation applies to more than natatorial temperature.
Take, for instance, study abroad. Last August I waded into Chile and now, after a winter break in the cold Minnesotan air, I’m diving right back in. This time, there is no shock nor breath to be caught. Binge-watching late-night U.S. television to pretend I’m back home has lost its appeal. The water is fine.
Like waves lapping on the shore, familiar moments wash over me one by one.
The peck on the cheek from my host mother. The fist bump from my host brother. The bark of an airport official telling us to get a move-on. The rolling hills beyond the highway billboards. The rolled R’s on the radio. The beep of the automatic toll transponder. The crunch of pebbles in the driveway. The triangular seating arrangement at the kitchen table. The first mouthful of charquicán. The five-minute walk to Plaza Ñuñoa. The animalista slogans spray-painted on bank facades. The embrace of a friend who exchanged audio messages with you all vacation. The screech of two chairs being pulled up to a curbside table. The bite of pisco sour. The thrill of having a three-hour debate about university politics in a language you just learned. The clumsy calculation of pesos owed. The two o’clock walk home. The fleeting chill of loneliness. The warmth of a bed that is yours. The host brother’s snores. The surreality of the reality of it all.
(Click on photo below to view slideshow.)