21 November 2007
9:26 AM

818 days in South America

There used to be a little counter on this site that kept track of the days I’d been gone. It has stopped at 818 days because after more than two years outside the U.S., I finally made my way home yesterday. Roy and I finished our detour through Peru and Bolivia and flew home from Lima. It’s a little surreal to be back in America after so much time away. A few observations:

I’m not tall anymore. While I was living in Bolivia and Chile, people always commented on how tall I am. If I was on the subway, I could look around and usually I was the tallest person in the area. I certainly enjoyed the ride while it lasted because now that I’m back in the U.S., I’m an average Joe again.

It’s comforting to see different ethnic groups again. In Bolivia, for example, black people are very uncommon. So uncommon that, should you see one, Bolivians say you should pinch him or her for good luck. When I arrived in Miami I saw faces of all different colors. The man sitting across from me at the gate had a Haitian passport in his shirt pocket. I heard several languages that I don’t know. I saw a couple who had just arrived from Singapore. I can’t say exactly why, but it made me feel good to be back in America and see the tremendous diversity of people who make their home here.

Passing through Miami was an interesting twist because when I left for Chile two years ago the last place I stopped in the U.S. was Miami. At that time I felt like I was already in another world. People everywhere were speaking Spanish, which I didn’t understand, and I had no idea what was going on. Roy and I even declined a free upgrade to first class unintentionally (doh!) because we didn’t understand the flight attendant. I remember being concerned that my passing through Miami might foreshadow the giant confusion that was to follow. It did. But on my return trip, I felt comforted hearing Spanish throughout the terminal. The mix of English and Spanish was a reminder that I hadn’t left Latin America behind.

Side note: when you’re in an airport or any heavy-tourist place, the standard for speaking Spanish well is incredibly low.

GATE AGENT: Did you pack your bags yourself?
ME: .
GATE AGENT: Have they been in your possession at all times since you packed them?
GATE AGENT: Are you carrying any items given to you by a stranger?
ME: No.
GATE AGENT: You speak Spanish very well.
ME: What?!

Apparently you only need to pronounce three or four words correctly to earn high marks.

In the meantime, I’m marveling at how smooth roads are, how clean everything is, how well toilets flush, and how warm it is indoors. This is my second winter this year, but since it’s always 70-something in houses here, I think I’ll manage. Although it feels strange, it’s good to be home.


Welcome back home, Ryan! I know there have been many people waiting for your return. I look forward to seeing you, whenever that might be. I’ll be in SLC from Dec. 21-26, though the holidays are probably going to be busy for both of us this year. Have you considered coming out here for the Macworld Expo in January? You’ve got a place to stay if you do!

Welcome home! By the way, after looking at your photos, I have to know:

did you change your clothes at all the last two weeks?

“…it made me feel good to be back in America and see the tremendous diversity of people who make their home here.”

…and then I got to Utah.

Welcome home hombre. I will see your shell-shocked self tomorrow.

“now that I’m back in the U.S., I’m an average Joe again.”
Dearest Ryan, I can assure you, you are certainly nothing close to an average Joe! Welcome home my long gone friend. Cookies, Carmels, Fudge, and Kaluha Truffles are just waiting to be made! Hooray for your return.

Ryan: No sabía de tus “pasos” este año, pero pensé que podía encontrarte aquí. Que bueno que estés muy bien y siempre tan divertidas tus apreciaciones del mundo. Cariños, Alejandra.

alejandra fom chile "the teacher at iapb"

on November 28, 2007 6:58 AM

Ryan, Welcome home! I’m not sure whenever I will see you next will be, but I have been anticipating your arrival and am happy you made the journey back safely. I can only imagine how illusory your return to the US must feel after your adventure of 818 days abroad. Good luck on your transition back, and remember that you have a whole lot of family cheering for you on whatever your next pursuit may be! -Cousin Jackie

mi casa es su casa……

welcome home!!

see you soon.

Love you on the east coast too!

Grandma y Grandpa

on December 2, 2007 5:31 PM

A belated welcome back Ryan! Hope to see you at the B&G game this spring or if not then this fall!

Tony Marquis

on December 4, 2007 3:43 PM

Welcome back Ryan. Thanks very much for getting me started on my blog. If I can be of any help as you “adjust” … just let me know.

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