I’m back in the United States – in Chicago to be exact. I moved to Madrid, Spain, in December 1999, and moved back to the United States not quite two weeks ago. I did visit the US from time to time, of course. And during those years the internet blossomed with all its social media, so I’ve been more in touch than ever with family, friends, and high school alums.
The internet also means I’ve heard all the news – as if the Trump-Clinton showdown doesn’t make headlines worldwide. But now I’m in the midst of the battle and the daily he-said-she-said. While I was gone, American politics took a strange turn. I must register to vote.
Some day-to-day things are now different, too. For example, grocery stores stock more variety, more pre-prepared food, and new brands to discover. The US seems to have turned into a nation of foodies, and I’ll be able to eat very well. Cracked pepper and olive oil Triscuits? Cool. (Spain is as newly obsessed with food, too, but more toward a return to tradition.)
Since I’m now located next to a great lake – an inland sea, technically – moisture fills the air and falls regularly from the sky. Chicago gets on average four inches of rain per month in July and August. Madrid, with one-third less humidity, averages .4 inch of rain each month, and an entire summer month without rain would surprise no one.
As a result, Chicago looks lush: green everywhere and flowers cascading with color in boulevards and lawns. Madrid’s government and citizens do their best to grow and lovingly care for trees and gardens, but they just can’t compete.
Also, I’ve moved into a lively neighborhood with a street festival coming up next weekend just a few blocks away. I’ll see how it compares to the August fiestas castizas of Madrid.
Meanwhile, I’ve had to deal with problems caused by a lack of a state-issued ID. Getting an Illinois driver’s license has become a priority, but as a very patient and knowledgeable man at the DMV explained, the application requires five different documents, one of which I need to acquire. He told me how to get it, and now that’s in process. Then I need to take the written driver’s test, vision test, and road test. I must brush up on my parallel parking skills.
Still, this should be a lot easier than getting my Spanish driver’s license. It’s just one of many “welcome back” complications to deal with.
Meanwhile, most of my worldly possessions are in a cargo container to be loaded this week on a ship to cross the Atlantic. I should see them by early September with luck, but luck is not guaranteed, since Homeland Security randomly inspects shipments, which could add to the wait and cost. I’m living with minimal possessions until then, sort of like camping out. It’s sad to go to those big American grocery stores, see all that fine food, and be unable to prepare so much of it until my cookware makes it to this side of the Big Pond. I’m drinking wine out of a housewarming gift coffee mug in the meantime.
Other than reading, writing, and translating, my big passion in life is cooking. So I’m three out of four this month – in a new city in my home country where I hear a lot of Spanish on the street, but with a Latin American accent. And where bit by bit I’m sure I’ll find out everything I’ve missed.
— Sue Burke
Also posted at my website http://www.sue.burke.name