From the outside a year seems like so much time. And it is a lot of time. 12 months. 52 weeks. 365 days. 8765 hours.
It’s long enough to conceive and have a baby. Long enough to buy land and build a house. Long enough to go into remission from a disease. Long enough start a new career, like becoming a realtor. Long enough to plan and leave for a sabbatical. Long enough to learn a lot of language. Long enough to get inches taller. Long enough to forget most everything about home (if you’re three).
But when you’re on the inside of those months and weeks and days and hours, a year can feel like no time at all.
It took five months to get temporary residency organized. Longer to get pay checks fully worked out. It was nearly six months before I could hang laundry outside our tenth story windows in a strong breeze without feeling like I should follow it up with a stiff drink. Almost nine months passed before the portero casually mentioned that “everyone” knows the water from the garden spigot is the best for drinking. It was ten months before the kids settled into close friends and frequent play dates. At eleven months I found a friend for coffee dates. There are days when, after almost twelve months, it feels like life here is just finding a groove. That we’re just really getting started.
Then there are days when a year feels endless and home is the only place we want to be.
Either way, here we are almost at the very end. Back to the beginning of the calendar, but nowhere near where we started.
As quickly as people here asked, “Why come to Uruguay?” when we first arrived, they now ask, “You’re leaving so soon?”
We will miss being surrounded by Spanish. We’ll miss pastafrola, ice cream, fainá, and pizza. We’ll miss roaring buses that take us almost exactly where we need to go. We’ll miss the Rambla and the wide expanse of blue sky and brown water beyond. We’ll miss the store downstairs where, when we’re running late , he lets us take what we need and pay later. We’ll miss the almost daily find of some new knowledge (that soda moves east in the summer, that alcohol sales are prohibited on election day, that it is illegal for restaurants to have salt shakers on tables, that children’s vitamins just don’t sell here).
The kids will most certainly miss the porteros who chase them, tease them, bring them gifts, and never ever let them feel ignored. They’ll miss their schools where every single person knows their names. And where kids now stop Nathan and I to look up at us with the most forlorn expressions and ask, “Why do you have to leave?” I will miss walking past the boy’s school and catching a glimpse of him yelling and running after some giant six grader, his voice lost in the cacophony of kids at play.
I will miss kissing on the cheek as a way of greeting; that brief, intimate contact that humanizes even a passing exchange. I will miss this even though it often means waiting forever to be served because the person helping you must first kiss every single coworker and acquaintance they pass between them and you.
There are things we certainly won’t miss: dog feces, neighbors fornicating at 4am, the involved process of paying bills, and the sour smelling mold that blooms in our walls.
I think we’d all agree that we’ve enjoyed Uruguay a great deal. In some sense we wouldn’t mind the chance to stay longer, but it’s time to go and so we’re ready.
We’re ready in large part because over there, on the other side of the world, is home and friends and family and community, which I admit I never stopped missing. Not missing it in the choking way that makes it impossible to enjoy the here and now, but in a way that is comforting and reassuring. And here’s where I get stuck in translating emotions into words. Phoebe is far better at expressing thoughts on friendship and distance.
Look, maybe it’s as simple as this: The experience we’ve had here this past year has been made richer and warmer by the support, friendship, and foundation we have there; and for that we are profoundly lucky.