My first year in Latin America was spent in Ecuador, and nearly every Sunday was a day of suffering, in which the fact that I was so far away and estranged from my family was only emphasized by the other families all together and having fun. Sunday in Latin America is a family day, and the streets can often be found empty, with only tourists and potential thieves walking around looking for trouble. People have big family lunches or head out as a group, and as a lonely foreigner, it can be a difficult and boring day. Not much is open and without other friends in similar situations, it gets you down.
Buenos Aires was different because it was such a large city that you could always find something going on. Likewise, there are many transplants living there, not only from the interior of the country, but from all over the world as well. Therefore, the last two years in Latin America weren’t defined by depressing Sundays. On the contrary, it was just another day in the week–one which had to be appreciated as a day off, even though Monday would loom in the shadows. However, the idea of family would always be present on that day, and I did my best with a weekly Sunday night Skype phone call with my parents. Though I was usually tired and in no mood for a phone call by Sunday night, it was a little tradition that we had, and if my brother and sister were around they would say hello as well.
There were only a handful of times in the last three years when we didn’t have a Sunday night Skype call, and that would usually be because one of us was out of town. Rarely would I cancel because I was out doing something else, and in fact I most often would have the phone call define my day. No matter what I was doing I would tell my friends that I’d have to be back later on for the call. Vero would often ask me on a Monday if I spoke to my parents and as always they would have told me to say hello for them. Once in a blue moon we would be off on our times and make up for a call the following Monday or Tuesday, but that was wishy washy, just like the signal we would usually have. If I was in a certain corner of the apartment the call could be dropped or we would have a delay.
Yesterday my old friends from high school and college came over for a welcome home barbecue, and it was great to see them all again. But today was family day, and for the first time in nearly two years I was home for it. Nothing special happened–with just my parents we checked out a new shopping complex a few towns over. Even though the country is in a recession, you wouldn’t be able to tell by the brand new stores popping up everywhere and the shopaholics throwing away their green bills. My dad tells me that’s more of a development in the last year, however.
For once I was able to just be with the family and not have to worry about finding a friend to hang out with today, just searching for a way to kill the spare time between Saturday night and work on Monday morning. So you often take the good with the bad, and if reverse culture shock is a symptom of coming home, at least I can also take a simple day with the family as par for the course. After three years of gallivanting around South America, I’m okay with that.