A few months ago we decided that, instead of spending the winter in Africa as was then our tentative plan, we would fly back to Boston for a New Year’s Eve wedding and then go down to Latin America. Imagine our delight, then, to find a direct non-stop flight from Dakar to Dulles Airport in suburban Virginia. Or at least imagine our delight in finding that flight if you knew Mark’s sister lives in suburban Virginia not far at all from Dulles. It seemed as though it was meant to be.
Thus we found ourselves arriving in the DC area at 6:30 AM on December 27. Arriving back in the States is a little disorienting for us, almost like a bit of culture shock. Everything is so big and clean and smooth and easy. You can buy anything you need (and lots of things you don’t need) and it’s pretty easy to figure out where to get it. People love to complain about the traffic and crazy drivers pretty much wherever you are, but if you haven’t traveled in Italy or Senegal or Bangkok or damned near anywhere else we’ve been, you have no right to complain.
At any rate, here we were for a two-day visit with Mark’s sister and her family. And then it turns out his parents had come out for Christmas and decided to stay for our visit so we got to see them, too. Jeanne accommodated all our shopping needs – when traveling long-term outside the U.S. you build up a list of things you really want to get if and when you ever get back – and cooked for us in her spare time. Then we’d play games after dinner and maybe have a drink or two. A great short visit.
Then it was a quick flight up to Boston for the main event, the wedding of a great friend and former employee. (Former as in he’s still there, but we’re not.) It’s always strange to go back to a city you lived in for nearly 20 years and see it as a tourist, staying in a downtown hotel instead of our old Cambridge neighborhood. It’s easy to forget when you live there just what a beautiful city Boston is, but after a couple years away we were really struck by Boston. Not enough to want to live there in the winter again, but struck nonetheless.
Lots of our time was taken up by various wedding activities, including of course the main event on New Year’s Eve at the Institute of Contemporary Art, a pretty great venue for a wedding. We also had time to see some old friends who weren’t part of the wedding but the strange thing is that we were enjoying those visits so much that we didn’t take any pictures of them. So you’ll have to trust me that dinner with Marc – whom we may have convinced to join us biking in Italy early next summer – and lunch with Dara, Randi, and Al were great fun.
And the wedding was as you’d expect from a great wedding. We had hired John Lee as a summer intern maybe 10 years ago and knew from the start that some day he would take over for us. And sure enough, that’s what he did when we left now going on three years ago. The wedding itself was beautiful but of course the big deal for us at least was a chance to reconnect with lots of great friends from the company. Unfortunately, most of the pictures just didn’t work – either too dark and blurry if we didn’t use a flash and too glaringly bright if we did. Again, trust me that flying from Africa was totally worth it for a chance to play with our old friends.
That was our lightening-quick visit back to the states: two days with Mark’s family in Virginia and four days with old friends in Boston, about as much winter as I need for any year. Then it was a long flight down to Mexico City where we spent the night before continuing on the next day to Puerto Escondito for a couple weeks on the beach.
We didn’t take a single picture during that brief stay in Mexico City – a place we often love – but there were two things that really stood out for me. One was while we were in a shopping mall in the Zona Rosa near our hotel shopping for SIM cards for our iPhones. A perfectly ordinary urban shopping mall but you couldn’t help but noticing the blatant public displays of affection among young gay Mexicans. Lots of touching and hand-holding and kissing, and I don’t mean chaste little pecks on the cheek or European-style greeting kisses. These were full on … well, trust me. So much for conservative Catholic Mexico. Makes me start to feel a little old.
The other wasn’t quite so fun or interesting, just spending two-and-a-half hours on Skype with AT&T trying to get my phone unlocked so I can use those Mexican SIM cards (and later Guatemalan SIM cards and Argentinian SIM cards and so on). A week ago I requested that service and paid over $300 to get it done, money that we’ll quickly save as we quit paying outrageous AT&T monthly charges. In the meantime, though, I’m getting a huge runaround. Another 40 minutes on the phone today and still no progress. I suppose I can’t really complain, though, since now we’ve made it to the beach and, when I’m not on the phone with AT&T life here is pretty good. More on all that in a couple days.