As you know, my least favorite blog to write is always the last one from the summer...which is why I've hesitated until tonight. In addition, when I see the "Hasta Pronto" as I'm boarding the plan from San Juan, I always start to cry. This time, it had multiple meanings. Before I left this summer, I knew I'd be back as opposed to last summer, when I wasn't as sure. So in the days leading up to my departure, there was less sadness...as everyone knew I'd be back. But, my dear friend Ashley (from Nashville who is departing for Wales soon) told me before she left, she doesn't like saying goodbye, but prefers to say "see you soon." So, when I arrived at the departure gate and saw this....I realized the joy and sadness that accompanies the sentiment of "see you soon." Perhaps more importantly, I realized, some of my best friends are spread all throughout the world, but the kinds of relationships I've built with them...well, they are durable. I know despite our locations...I'll always see them again...and hopefully, I'll see them soon (Ashley, Magaly, Jorell, Eggie, Carlos...and the rest of you).
My last week on the island was quite fantastic. No, it was perfect. I found myself repeatedly explaining to people how painful it always is when I leave. I'm not sure I can explain it here. I'm not sure I want to. But I do know this...every single time I leave, I feel like I've left something behind. I feel like I leave a place I belong, which is rather odd. I'm not Puerto Rican. I have no "claim" to the island (at least in the traditional sense), but I do know that it is the place that I feel the most at home. It is the place I feel most like myself, despite struggling through conversations and the complications of being in a world you haven't spent most of your life...I don't know what it is...but for me, Puerto Rico is home. I have family there. I have friends there. I feel right there. And while, you might think I'm dialing in some melodrama here...I've considered more times than I'd like to admit in the last couple of days considering leaving graduate school and moving there. (Disclaimer: Don't worry mentors and the like, if you help me get there, I'll stay in the program, which should be taken as a threat...maybe).
I'll never be able to really explain it. And I actually don't care to do so...I know that when I'm sitting in a club/bar and I stand up to greet and embrace my friends on the island...or when I'm in the grocery store attempting to communicate about looking for a specific grocery item....or when I'm sitting at a party listening to a joke being told in Spanish and I'm carefully trying to translate...or when I happen upon some random individual who can talk with me for hours about my research...or when I watch the sunrise and sunset over the ocean...I know...I belong there. And it hits home with every text/message/email between me and my family when I realize my leaving doesn't just impact me...but we all feel it.
And so, without further ado...my last week on the island...
1. An early, exciting, and awkward morning awaking in Rio Piedras...then trying to navigate my way through the early morning streets of Santurce, drenched in sweat to arrive back home and attempt to sleep off the last several hours.
2. Proposing promiscuity/marriage to Ashley...and a life of freedom.
3. Making a southern meal for my family...homemade mac n' cheese, lima beans, green beans, cornbread, deviled eggs, and sweet tea. My absolute favorite part of the evening (and quite possibly the whole trip) was the hour I spent with Magaly, while I was cooking and we talked and laughed. That lovely lady is one of the best friends I have ever had. And then enjoying the meal all together.
4. A late night surprise visit to El Bar Bero with Carlos, Juanluis, Orlando...and the famous Sergio! It was a pleasure to meet Sergio...finally. I also enjoying getting to meet some of the bike crew in PR, particularly Jandy. And then drinking a bottle of something that looked akin to Pepto Bismol, but was really more like a Guava version of chichaito (#bad choice). The pictures are phenomenal.
5. Trying to get to Rebecca's birthday party in Old San Juan. Let's see...it started with me almost not attending. Then Eggie decided to go. Then Enrique didn't offer me a ride (Queeeeee?). Then Magaly asked me why I was speechless and we had a good talk. And finally I arrived.
6. Actually arriving at Rebecca's birthday party. The bands were rad. The venue was awesome. I didn't have a cupcake but they looked great. I got the chance to see my friend El Ochi (which I will always protect his first name). Late Night at the pizza place...meeting Milo and a ton of other Jawbreaker fans who took no offense to the fact that I played 10 dollars worth of Jawbreaker tunes on the jukebox.
7. A lazy Friday. Magaly made a delightful Tortilla de Espana (which I hadn't told her I had dreamed about the night before). We watched some episodes of Weeds and finally History of the World Part I....it might have only been better if we had not watched episodes of the aforementioned, but instead enjoyed some of the aforementioned and then watched the movie.
8. A Saturday afternoon in Old San Juan. While it was too crowded for my taste, I had the chance to meet a lovely fella from the student strikes in the 1970s...and then had the fortune of having trifongo at Fefo's and meeting Vity. I'm only sad I didn't get a chance to talk more with him.
9. Naty's birthday house party. I met so many wonderful people...Jose, Obama (yes, the President), and some other handsome fella that I didn't catch his name. We talked about politics, the fact that Bud Light pales in comparison to Medalla, and other unfortunate experiences. It was a lovely party, indeed. Plus getting to spend more time with Jorell, Eggie, and Myrna was needed. Wait, maybe my favorite part was when Eggie asked me to be his own personal photographer (see the photos below).
10. The After-Naty's-Birthday-Party...a follow-up at El Boricua...handsome fella and friends in tow.
11. Watching the sunrise with Eggie after the party.
12. A lazy Sunday brunch. I might have died if Magaly hadn't prepared a delightful meal of french toast and watermelon (Mildred!!!). And some awkward family portraits.
13. A Sunday sunset on the beach...where I went to shed a few tears about leaving so the roommates didn't see.
14. Sunday night...having to say goodbye to Jorell and Enrique.
15. Monday Sunrise...sitting awake in my room, listening to the sounds of the neighborhood and preparing myself for leaving.
16. Monday morning and the drive to the airport with Magaly. I'm pretty sure we talked about anything possible to avoid the current sadness. We joked, we made small talk...because neither one of us could handle having to say the goodbye. Lucky for me, I warded off the tears until I got inside. Then...the lines were so annoying with los gringos that I wasn't able to cognitively understand what was happening until I arrived at the gate.
17. The tears.
18. The airport bar in San Juan: The way gringos pronounce Medalla, Tina Turner's Private Dancer...and then the airport bar in Charlotte: Tina Turner's What's Love Got To Do With It....(there is a message here...)
19. An intense crying fest when the wheels lifted off the ground in San Juan and I watched the island drift away.
And here are the pictures:
|Puerto Rico Summer 2011 Week 6|
So, like Carlos has said, I'm Jack. I want to go back. I need to go back. The island wants me to come back. And until then, I'll have to tell all my friends and family there, "I'll see you soon, my loves." And I'll miss all of you every day, but I'll mostly miss my afternoon conversations with Magaly....well, and all those handsome men that seem a world away from me now.