Yesterday was an emotional day. I shed my first tears at Gatwick saying goodbye to Shaun, and so did Carlos. After that it was an endless mixture of walking through airports, sleeping on planes and more tears. How much harder it is to leave happy memories behind than sad ones. And by the final day of our stay in England our hearts were packed with joyful moments: yesterday just talking together about any one of them and my face was wet, yet again. But this is the balance of life. And I am learning to accept it. It is the same in all lives of course, but perhaps as we come and go between our two home countries we feel the joy and pain more acutely. We notice the contrasts in our emotions as we leave and as we arrive. Our travels bring things into sharp focus. We have a wonderful family in England. We were loved by warm and generous hearted friends. We stayed in my Southampton flat which is comfortable, contemporary and has more than one room: we were spoiled. Only the weather tried to dampen our days with persistent English rain forcing us to stay in the car at Stonehenge and on top of the Shropshire hills. But we are made of hardy stuff and a bit of wind, sleet, hail, rain and snow did not take the smiles off our faces. And when you have had great times, it is always going to be hard to walk away from them, even when you know that there will be many more to come.
The flat in England is now let to someone else, which has been hard to swallow: it was my first home after my marriage ended, it was a sanctuary for me, and the first concrete evidence of my independence. But I have to let it go. It will provide me with a welcome income for my life here, and in the end it is still mine. My friends and family are half a world away tonight, but they were already calling me on Skype this morning, and they won’t disappear either. The good parts of England have not gone anywhere. We have just left them for a while.
And so, last night, the next phase of my life in Argentina began. I came through customs as a ‘Temporary Resident’ and it felt good. Officially no longer a tourist, I was coming home. It was 23 degrees in Buenos Aires at midnight, and I smiled to drive past the people eating outside cafés and restaurants as we passed. I felt freer and lighter just to be here. But, I cried again when we arrived in the apartment. It felt tiny, and Carlos commented that we humans are always comparing: what we have here, what we have there. We both knew we would quickly get used to the space, but for a moment it was a shock to be back living in what is basically one room again. Our next challenge was where to put the things inside the four massive bags we brought with us. At about 3am I gave up trying and we collapsed on our sofa bed with chaos all around. Today I laughed as Carlos revealed to me the little objects he had sneaked from my English flat into the bags: a clever double ended screwdriver, a beautifully shaped coffee measuring spoon, numerous pens and pencils. Carlos adores pens: and I don’t mean expensive ones. He likes clever pens, or ones with names on: hotels, banks, conferences… he will treasure them all. He spent this morning lovingly examining every single item in the twenty quid 240 piece tool set my dad bought him in Aldi, Southampton: drill bits, a vast range of strange things that I could not put a name to, screwdriver heads… He proudly explained each object to me and I nodded and said, ‘Si, mi amor,’ alot. And all the time he was wearing the very English cap that my mum bought him in Shrewsbury market! How could I not be happy to observe him so content. I brought back winter coats, my favourite thick cardigans, boots, headphones so that Carlos can watch TV when I want to sleep, my iPod station, soft fleece slippers (two pairs), a fake fur throw, another hot water bottle with a fleecy cover… Where Carlos loves pens, I love furry things that make me feel cosy on grey days.
Our first day back has been a bright one. I woke feeling optimistic and positive: the clear blue sky and sun were gifts, and somehow I found a home for the contents of those four huge bags. Later we walked to Jumbo and Easy in Palermo, looked at computer printers, flat screen TVs, computer desks, wardrobes… but bought nothing. We decided not to restrict our spending on food, just this once. We had feared the shelves might be empty, having heard that meat and vegetables were not getting into Buenos Aires while we were away… but there was no sign of that this afternoon and I was delighted to choose anything I wanted from the vast selection at the deli counter. We bought steak for dinner (unaffordable for us in England), good ‘jamon crudo’, grilled vegetables (Argentine style), ready cooked roast potatoes, and tiramasu for dessert. I am pleased to report that England brought my appetite back and I have put on two kilos. In the household goods aisle I was highly amused when Carlos demanded to know why the quality of toilet paper is so poor in Argentina compared to England, and insisted on buying the most expensive, and the most like the brands in Tesco! The queues at the checkouts were as usual horrendous, but actually today I didn’t care. I felt at home in the Argentine supermarket. I never really have before, but today it felt familiar and like I had missed it.
Tonight I am relaxed. The balcony door is wide open and the warm air and sounds of the Buenos Aires evening are drifting in. Carlos is sleeping and I have the tiny portable TV on in English. The flat doesn’t seem doll-sized any more. It just feels like home. Who knows what the future holds for us, but how lucky we are to have strong and beautiful connections with not one, but two countries. Carlos said to me yesterday, ‘Life with you is never boring.’ He is right. Our life will not be boring. Sometimes we will face challenges brought about by our circumstances, but never will we live in a rut. We will adapt, evolve and find a way to make the most of both our worlds. Now I know that I will want to regularly return to England, and maybe the next time will be more like a holiday… no flat to clear and let, no car to sell, no visa to obtain. But I also know that I would not enjoy England as much if I had to live there again. So, back in Buenos Aires, I am happy with the way things are. England will still be there if I need it, but for now Argentina is the place where I know that I can spread my wings and fly.
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