Monthly Archives: October 2012

Home Sweet Foreign — wait, what?

We have made it all the way to Crested Butte, CO! And we are, without question, HOME, don’t let the title of this post fool you on that score. Crested Butte is just as beautiful as we remembered, our friends even more precious than before, our senses alive with the sights and smells and sounds (or lack thereof) that yell Home! It’s nice.

That said, while moving first to Ecuador then to four other South American countries and taking on scary Bolivian Immigration all within the framework of one year was/is impressive; I’m almost of the opinion at this point that what we’ve done in the last two weeks may be ever more so. The fact that we can all speak in our native tongue when trying to get stuff done does make things easier and faster, it surprisingly does not make them completely stress or mistake-free. Our day car shopping was the first testament to that, and we’ve had many others since.  We are settling in, mas o menos, yet finding it nearly as foreign to be here, as a new us in our old setting, as it was to be the old us in all those new settings.

It’s a strange sensation to describe, this homecoming of ours. I love knowing the streets and directions and which exact isle at the store has cereal or coffee. We love seeing the familiar faces and hugging all the friends and family that were so so missed.

But it’s also a little jarring sometimes. For me, it feels as if I have a new and attached shape of…something… all around me that is not quite solid, but more substantial than air, and I keep knocking it up against doors and boxes and pedestrians as I walk by. I don’t take up the same shape of space as I used to, but I don’t know what shape I currently claim.

Coming from a South American sabbatical to start your entire career and community life up again, but with a more light-hearted and calm pace than you left with, within the structure of a modern American community template is a mammoth undertaking. Even when that community is as relatively laid back as CB.

It’s like trying to catch a brake-less racing train. Choice one: you can wait until the end of time for it to come to a full stop, allow you on, look around for your new seat and view, then- slowly-chug, chug, chug up to your pre-approved speed. Or, Choice two: You sprint alongside and jump.

South America taught me to look for a Choice 3.

Still looking. 😉

Thankfully, it is off-season here. It is quiet. The colors are gone and the snow not yet arrived and the tawny fields and stark aspen trees lend a peaceful stillness to our spirits that makes this strange reverse culture shock much easier to absorb.

I think we tricked ourselves into thinking that once we got home Everything would be so much easier! We would know exactly what people were saying, could follow conversations with ease and have current season Grey’s Anatomy showings each week.

Ok, that last one is just me.

Not the point.

The point is that our Sabbatical was never meant to provide us with the secret tools to An Easy Life.

It was meant to provide us practice time with some pretty well-known tools for living Life.

And so as we start school and look for work and buy cars, we also take long walks, lots of photos, and do our own full-stops of time with people and places, and each other.

It is good to be home. Amidst all that we are figuring out anew, it is good to be home.

And it is good that home is foreign enough to us that we can’t live it on autopilot.

What a fantastic surprise.

“Everybody has to leave, everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons.”
 — Donald Miller

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Made it as far as Mom and Dad’s now and it is, as always, our perfect respite and love-boosting stop. Today though, tops it all.

There was not a week, not a single week, in South America that went by without Vaughn saying, “Remember when Poppie said he’d take me fishing when we get back? That’ll be fun. I’ve never been fishing. Remember when Poppie said he’d take me?”

Guess who just caught dinner. 😉


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Smiley Faces, Tow Yards, Short Tuxedos and Phone Cords

We’ve made it back! Raced off the last plane into the cheering arms of our family at DIA and had a wonderfully special homecoming with loved ones. XOXO!

We’ve now been Stateside for a whole 48 hours and adjusting a bit more with each interaction that we have. Having sold or given away nearly all of our worldly possessions before we left, Bo and I let the boys go with mom and dad back to Montrose for some serious Yaya/Poppie play time while we’ve stayed behind to look for cars. More on the personal adjustments and how hard it was to let the boys go later. Those really are important points that I want to write about in-depth, and with a straight face.

Which means not now.

No, this post is about car shopping and I couldn’t write it with a straight face if I tried.

Keeping in mind that for the past 8 months we have not had a house payment, car payment, insurance, cell phones, more than a small bag of clothes, or any other modern attachment, dropping into the metro area used car world right out of the gate like this proved…eventful.

Determined to carry as much of our recent simplicity into this next American chapter as we can, we are looking to buy much less expensive cars than we have previously sought out. So, we spent the evening before checking out used car lots in Denver that had the inventory we were seeking and narrowed it down to a smiley-face dealer for the first choice and another lot with a man who apparently favors short tuxedos and disco music, judging by his website.  Then this morning, leery but hopeful and with the gracious loan of my Aunt Julie’s car, we took off down the road to Colfax to begin the search.

Smiley face dealer got a bad start as we were hit up for “bus” money right as we got out of our car by a passing “bus user”. Then the salesman helping us spoke in such a thick southern drawl that it was honestly hard to understand him from time to time -and we’re pretty used to straining to understand people. Somewhere between “we dawn’t do our caaars rough ’round ‘ere.  Dawn’t raide ’em hard an’ put ’em up wet, ya know wha’ I’m sayin?” and “Ahh’m frum Boulder, but spent taime en Luuusiana so com by this accent ‘onest” We decided that Smiley Face was not for us.

Feeling a little off-balance we turned into the next big car lot we saw to look around and catch our breath. Amazingly, we stumbled upon a vehicle we weren’t even looking for but that fit our criteria well and so ended up having a nice new salesman named Juan help us test drive it and scope it out. Juan being new and in training had to ask a couple of questions of his General Manager, a kind elderly man from France or Spain (depending on which story he’s telling you) with a strong South African accent and amazingly white dentures. After getting some info on the car, peppered in between a lot of world travel anecdotes from the GM, we decided that we couldn’t pick the first car we liked–we needed to keep looking.

We needed to visit short-tuxedo-man.

Short-tuxedo-man is on the other end of Denver and has 120 cars on a lot that should fit about 50. Seeing the inventory stacked four-deep as we drove up didn’t exactly boost our confidence, but reminding ourselves that we are intentionally doing things differently, and “maybe there’s a real diamond in the rough hidden in there?”, parked Julie’s car and hopped out.

No such luck on the diamond front, but we did endeavor to test drive a few cubic zirconias that made the long drive to short-tuxedo-man’s lot worth it. Unfortunately, most of the ones we wanted a closer look at were not in the front row, meaning that each time we asked for a test drive the salesman would have to call out his small army of ex-carnival-worker staff to move all the cars in front and around it. Picture those square puzzles where one square is missing and you move all the others trying to make the picture correct , that’s what it resembled. While we did find a hopeful candidate for Bo’s car, this “system” being what it was meant that we were at short-tuxedo-man’s lot for much longer than we meant to be.  So, after many rousing puzzle rounds combined with low blood sugar and sensory overload, we told our salesman we needed to think about it and would be back later. Deep breaths and sure steps led us back to where Julie’s car was, not.

Yes. Yes we did get my Aunt’s car towed today.

Towing situation was shady at best, but also impossible to change so we turned ourselves back around and with my cheeks at full blush, asked if we could take one of the cars we were looking at for an extended test drive to pick up our vehicle that had just been towed. They very graciously obliged.

On the way to the tow yard the car we were nearly ready to buy for Bo suddenly had the check engine light turn on, a rain/gravely sound emit from under the hood, and a strong stench of oil fill the car. So, really, the towing was a blessing in disguise that way.

A brutally negotiated $230 later and disappointed that we have to turn down the car we were about to make an offer on, we dropped the test-driver car back at short-tuxedo-man and decide to try and salvage the day by heading back to the lot that had the vehicle we liked, ready to drive it home as soon as possible.

Juan was out with other customers when we arrived so the friendly GM from this morning helped us get started. And that’s when the day got Really fun. This sweet older gentleman has led a fascinating life that I now know all about. Every question we asked about the car, every attempt to negotiate the price, was responded to with a lengthy tale that was based out of some connection he made between our car talk and his time traveling Spain with his brother when his father died, or his “frugal, not cheap, frugal” Scottish wife, or his two hip replacements, no – 3 hip replacements because one was done wrong and he had one leg shorter than the other, or how different it was working cars during the Carter administration, or how lucky he is that his Scottish bride doesn’t like jewelry so he buys her a rose each anniversary, or the difference between an English pub breakfast and what he ate growing up in South Africa.


The real kicker being when he was calling a tire company to ask a price for replacement tires on the car we’re looking at, had to put them on hold (by placing the phone on the table, no idea how to use a hold button), then returning and picking up the phone upside down. Cord coming out of the phone by his ear, speaking more and more loudly into the earpiece now at his mouth, explaining that “they don’t make phones as clear as they used to” and “sometimes these folks forget they’re on the phone, maybe they left” and “hello?” “Hello?!”

I made a break for the bathroom before exploding into laughter while Bo, who is more than ready to just get some straight information at this point, held it together and helped the man see he was talking upside down through a series of hand signals and demonstrations.

After all of that we drove home…

in my Aunt Julie’s car. Resting up tonight and preparing to brave the used car world again tomorrow.

When Bo and I turned in for bed tonight he wrapped me up in a hug still chuckling from dinner and said, “This was a really fun day.” I smiled and agreed and knew I had to come write this all down.

Bo and I did have a great, memorable, and fun day today. There is no way today would have looked like that to us before our Sabbatical. Had Pre-South America Jamie written you this post it would have had a much harder, more down-trodden, and I hate to say it, even cynical tone to it. Hopefully that is not in line with what you just read.

We didn’t lose our tempers, we didn’t turn on each other, we held hands and laughed until we cried and worked it out. Just took on the next thing – which is a strategy we had to use in South America early and often. Recounting the tale over dinner with my aunt and uncle and cousins tonight left us all breathless with mirth.

What we’ve just done isn’t for everyone and we would never suggest that it was. But it was so very much for us. And when people ask me if  it was worth it I will smile and say “Yes”, and think back on today as Exhibit A.

I am certain that there are challenges ahead for us that we won’t meet quite so cheerfully. But for tonight, as I wind this down and head to bed my resounding thought is,

it’s working.

Categories: From Jamie | 9 Comments

Day 248

I remember writing our Day 1 Post. I remember the awe and excitement and wonder, and nerves, at all we had just done and all the unknown that was ahead of us to do.  I remember saying that it was great. I remember that it was.

Beginnings get a lot of press. Like the first day of Spring, which we are experiencing in the Southern Hemisphere right now, beginnings are clean and open and green. They smell good. They are unmarred and easily celebrated. As they should be.

Endings though, rarely get the joy of that flip-sided coin. And that is a shame. Endings are beautiful. It is in the beginning that something becomes possible, it is in the ending that something becomes precious.

This was true of leaving Crested Butte last January. I had lunch with friends, took impromptu walks on trails I thought I knew, and initiated longer sidewalk conversations all on a moment’s notice, and devoid of the “busy” excuse I used to wear like a uniform. Anxious to get the time and love in before we left.

This was true of leaving Cotacachi, when suddenly all the oddness and quirks and messes that hours before drove us mad, took a drastic turn towards the endearing.

This was true of leaving Taganga, Buenos Aires, and even our one day in Colonia as well. Each place that we found new and exciting in the beginning really revealing their worth as we prepared our goodbyes.

Of the blogs I’ve read of other families that have done something like this, they unanimously report at the end of it that they wanted more time. It felt too short. They wish it could be longer. They were just getting the hang of things.  All of them say that – whether their stint was 3 months, 6 months, or over a year. Importantly, all of them say that in their last, or next to last, post.  We feel the same way. We want more, now that at the end of things we see without distraction the gift of what we have together.

These are the most fantastic people I hang out with. They are funny and brave. Cute and dashing. Kind and honest. They are my heroes. I knew these things about them before of course, but I know them differently now. I know them in the way I know my own skin or recognize my own voice. And I suspect that while we may feel like we are “just now getting the hang of it”, it would be truer to say that we are just now realizing how much we actually got the hang of  together and are justifiably in awe, with a splash of disbelief.

This has been amazing.

Amazing, Amazing,  Amazing.

Beauty and love and awareness and appreciation don’t always show up at first, but they unfailingly swell at the end. Daring you not to cry at the noticing.

And so through the tears and the reflection I can’t help but grin. I am so happy about this ending. I am so grateful for all the spotlight on the precious. I am so fortunate to have a lifetime experience that is wonderful enough to mourn its passing.

What happens for us after the end? After Day 248?

We wake up tomorrow in Colorado with yet another clean slate and a multitude of spring green options ahead.

We wake up on the next Day 1.  And all the joy and possibility beginnings always have.

So. Grateful.

Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments


We’ve been on the move; five countries, eight months, 27 different hotels/apartments/homes, one lovely lady and two of the best boys on the face of the earth. At every place we stayed, we tried to get the boys picture in front of our door. Along the way we added in a few churches and fancy buildings. Here’s some of the doors we’ve gone through together…what a joy!

Categories: From Bo | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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