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Sunday, 01 March 2015

Forgotten Stamps on my Passport - Page 3

Written by J. Jennifer Gadwah
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The next four years I continued to craft my constellation of Latin travel by flying to Chile, Panama, Uruguay, and other countries.  Some countries, such as Chile, I was a regular, return visitor.  I still love Santiago as I would a beautiful, reliable friend – with the cold, majestic snow-capped Andes Mountains looking down onto a world of breezy hot palm trees and orderly rows of flower-filled sidewalks.  The awesome juxtaposition of cold/hot in Chilean geography extended to the Chilean people’s temperament.  Their order, efficiency, stability made them one of the most successful countries in Latin America.  It could’ve been boring and cold to some.  To me, it was not.  I roamed the notoriously competent, spacious malls of Santiago as if I were back in the States – making me feel at home as I ran errands after work.  Back at my hotel, I then marveled at my ability to watch the nightly TV weather forecasts that highlighted the temps of both the Atacama Desert in the Chilean North (reputed to be the driest desert on earth with no recorded rainfall ever) and Antarctica in the Chilean South (perpetually cold for those cute emperor penguins).  I was often incredulous at reading ’40 degrees celsius’ versus ‘-25 degrees celsius’ with accompanying cartoon-sun and cartoon-rain clouds. 


Chile, as thin as a pin on a map, it was contradictory, contrasting, but still enchanting as the deep, cold blue Pacific waters lapping at its shores.  Its people weren’t overly friendly, but they never cheated me.  Its food wasn’t the spiciest or most exciting, but I never got sick.  Chile was the most livable of all my Latin travels – and for me, the twenty-something who sometimes traveled alone and sometimes longed for home (that word again), I grew to adore the safe, comforting contrasts of Chile.                           


But how could I feel so at home in all these countries?  For comparison, who feels a bond with the entire continent of Europe?  Just as it is incorrect to blanket in all of the countries of Europe as being homogeneous, it seems that way for Latin America, too.  Beyond the Spanish language and Catholic religious commonalities existing between many Latin American countries, their cultures are quite different.  I also feel this uniqueness strongly whenever I travel and compare.  Nonetheless, Latin America in its entirety has provided me with a soul-affirming connection to myself that has caused me to look up at the sky and wonder about reincarnation.


In Uruguay, a cute brown bunny ran across the dewy green field next to where my plane had just landed.  I felt the light, tender ease of his jumps, the flecks of morning frost licking his back-paws in playful pursuit.  He had white speckles on his back which seemed to dance as he did – across the field and into the cold patch of fairy-tale woods behind Montevideo’s small airport.  I was convinced the bunny was there to greet me.  Though jet-lagged and in need of a good teeth-brushing, I felt a wide smile appear on my face.  I grabbed my tote-suitcase a little easier, and my body felt a little lighter, as I stepped off the plane to meet the cold Uruguayan morning.  Latin America was like that for me.  It was a coming home – but to a home that I had always felt I’d had.


In Costa Rica, a ginormous green mountain rose into my view as I stepped off the plane while on a quick lay-over to Panama.  It was the Titanic to look up at it – a giant ship heaved onto its side, bobbing like a cork, and submerged undoubtedly in 100% tropical humidity fogging up the lenses in my eyes like exquisite, savory coffee steam.  I swore the mountain was a volcano.  Because I don’t want to spoil my fantasy of looking up at my first volcano ever, I have refused to research this mountain boldly sitting next to the Juan Santamaria Airport in San Jose.  I also imagine a family of colorful toucans loudly chirping down to me from the lush volcano – welcoming me back to my old home as the Uruguayan brown bunny did a few months earlier.  Latin America has missed me!  

Tropical Rains At The Panam

                           Panama Canal 


I rounded out my tour-de-past lives by returning to, of all places, Mexico.  It was 2008 – twelve years after my first trip to Latin America.  It would represent my final trip to Latin America in a work capacity, as I was in the midst of switching jobs.  It would also represent an end to an era of travel in my life, as I was feeling ready for a quieter, more home-centered life back in Connecticut.  To think that my company would unknowingly ask me to return to a country that I had always considered tops on my myth-list felt nothing short of kismet.

(Page 3 of 4)
Last modified on Sunday, 01 March 2015

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