I love living in and traveling throughout foreign countries with my whole entire heart. I genuinely can’t think of anything that even comes close to making me happier than living among another culture. When I left the familiar comfort of my hometown Tucson, Arizona for my first international adventure to China a year and a half ago, I didn’t have a clue as to what was in store for me. China screwed me up in all the best ways. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the next place I want to visit, the next country I want to live in or the next culture I want to be immersed in. I was bitten by the travel bug and quickly infected when I moved to China. My semester in Asia passed by in a blink and somehow I was already back in the USA before I knew it and before I was ready. While I had traveled back to China, to Hong Kong and to the Philippines, it wasn’t enough to just visit another foreign country for a few days—I needed another cultural immersion and I needed to live somewhere foreign again. Mexico has been my home for the past three and a half months. Somehow, I only ate a couple tacos, went on a few vacations, and now there are only thirteen days left of the semester that passed by way too quickly once again. I’m sad to be leaving my life here in Mexico because there is going to be so much to miss: the elote, the horchata, the tacos from downtown, the dancing, the vacations, the kid’s hugs, our Mexican dad Ricardo and just the way of life we’ve grown so accustomed to since January. While my heart aches at the thought of leaving this life behind on May 6, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t also a little bit excited to get back to America.
What am I most excited about for my bittersweet return back to America?
- My car: I am beyond ecstatic to use my car and to drive again! Walking, busses, and taxis have been our primary modes of transportation all semester and just the thought of being able to drive whenever I want to, to wherever I want to brings such joy and freedom to my little heart.
- Friends: I miss my friends. I miss our Tuesday night Wing Stop gatherings at 9:06 PM. I miss our crazy nights, bad decisions, and funny stories. I miss my family of friends that I’ve had since middle school. They’re the people I can totally be myself around and put up with me despite my flaws and stupidity. I love you guys, wow.
- Making money: Note that I didn’t say “having a job” because I’m definitely not excited for that but…I’m poor now. While living in another country is usually cheaper than living America (can we talk about the $1 empanadas, elotes, and 3x$1 USD tacos), traveling and taking part in cool experiences like zip-lining, rappelling, swimming with dolphins, and going to different cities every other weekend isn’t very cheap! Because it’s the end of the semester and my travel funds have run low and dry, I’m excited to start making money again. Being a lifeguard and swim instructor, getting tan, and spending my summer days at a pool isn’t too bad a gig either I suppose.
- Speaking English: You’d think that after living in Mexico for a semester surrounded by Spanish that I must have become more competent and skilled at conversing in this language but the sad truth is that I don’t really think I’ve improved very much. More often than not, when I talk to the locals, I either get stage fright or just completely and totally mess up what I say and die inside while looking like an idiot to the Mexicans around me. It’s been quite the struggle, honestly– especially as of late. Therefore, I’m looking forward to speaking English when I get back to America and being able to properly converse and fully express my thoughts to the people around me when I need to.
- Family: I need love!!! I’m used to being away from my family so I never really get homesick, but when I think about going home and spending time watching movies with my mom, talking to my dad in the living room while cuddling with the pups, or getting a back rub from nana, metaphorical fireworks and confetti explode from my heart in the happiest way! We all have our faults, but the love of a family is so unconditional and deep. I can’t wait to be surrounded by people who love me so much.
- Hot Cheetos and cream cheese: I know this sounds so lame but I haven’t had Hot Cheetos and cream cheese in over three months. My favorite snack in the whole wide world has been unavailable to me all semester! (side note: if you’re thinking “Ew Ilyanna hot Cheetos and cream cheese?” go to your nearest store and get yourself a couple bags and several boxes of cream cheese because you need to try it before you deny it!) They have cream cheese and regular Cheetos here in Mexico but NO hot Cheetos! I tried eating cream cheese with these hot spicy Mexican chips and then again with Takis when the hot spicy chips failed me but it’s not the same. I know Hot Cheetos are supposed to like… cause ulcers and stuff, but my addiction is strong enough for me to look past that. I cant wait to get my mitts this delicious snack in a couple weeks.
- To explore Arizona more: My state is so beautiful. Whenever I leave Arizona and come back, my sense of love and appreciation for home reaches new levels. Yeah it’s probably going to be a fiery inferno when I return, but theres so much beauty to be explored!
- To drink water from the tap: This seems like something small but drinking water from the tap is something we all totally take for granted in America! Having to buy water bottles here isn’t the biggest hassle in the world in but it will be nice to not have that small worry of running out of potable water in the apartment.
- Sleeping in silence: If it’s not church bells waking us up, it’s the birds. If it’s not the birds, then it’s the horn on the piña cart. If it’s not the piña cart, it’s the water guys yelling “agua aquí!” from the top of their lungs. And if it’s not those guys then it’s probably the church again. More than eating hot Cheetos and cream cheese, I am looking forward to sleeping in silence. Falling asleep and waking up without the booms of fireworks or that stupid church bell sounds like something too good to be true.
While I’m excited for all of these things, my heart still drops into my stomach and anxiousness almost suffocates me when I think about how little time we have left here. Landing in Tucson will be incredibly bittersweet moment that I’m more than ready for.