Saturday, August 10, 2013

On Being Home

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Music: The French Chef

Boynton Beach

During my last week in San Pedro, my friend Gary prepared a farewell luncheon for me that also included friends Esther and Onne. At one time, Gary had been the personal chef to John Wayne – yes, that John Wayne – and had also owned a very successful restaurant in San Pedro, so I was looking forward to this luncheon, not only for the food but for the company as well because all of these people have come to mean a lot to me.

Gary prepared a chicken schnitzel while Esther made mashed potatoes. Esther’s “mash” became something of a joke between us because they’re so delicious. She grates cheese over the potatoes and then puts them in the oven for the cheese to melt. I’ve watched her make them but know that when I try to make them at home, they won’t be the same. My contribution? Wine, of course.

Quite unknown to each other, for dessert, both Gary and Esther made apple pie. Since Gary is both American and Canadian and Esther is Dutch, it became the battle of the North American versus the Dutch apple pies. There was no clear winner because both were delicious. Gary lives about 15 minutes outside of town, so I was glad we were walking back after such a wonderful meal. Good food and good company. I so appreciate what all these people did for me.

I began trying to make the above video while I was still in Guatemala. I had chosen the pictures and had an idea to try to find the theme from Julia Child’s The French Chef program. When I showed Esther my “work in progress,” and talked about Julia Child, Esther asked who was Julia Child. I thought everyone knew Julia Child, but to acquaint Esther with Julia I was able to find some of her programs on YouTube. Esther and I spent most of an afternoon watching them. I had forgotten how amusing Julia Child was without her meaning to be. Esther did take some exception to Julia’s croissant recipe, however.

Some Readjustments Easier Than Others

Although I’ve been home now for nearly two weeks, It hasn’t been an easy process getting reacclimated to life in the First World, and I keep finding myself slipping into “what was I doing at this time two weeks ago.” Some readjustments have been easier than others, however. For example,I had no problem drinking the water directly from the tap and wasn’t even tempted to throw the paper in a basket as opposed to the bowl. That's probably one of the best, if not the best, things we have going for us in the First World: adequate plumbing and unlimited hot water. One-stop grocery shopping - with some exceptions - the variety in store and the convenience of throwing everything into the car instead of a backpack and then having to schlepp it on a boat were all easy readjustments as well. Price increases on certain items not so much.

An incident in my rental car on the toll road between the Miami airport and the Interstate was my first obstacle to re-entry into the First World. There was construction at the toll plaza and I somehow managed to get into the no cash lane, With no transponder in the car, I sailed through without paying the toll. I was just waiting for the sound of sirens behind me, but all I saw was a sign ahead that read “Toll Evasion $100 fine.” This would have been bad enough in my own car, but in a rental? Of course, I was concerned until I returned the car the next morning and learned that the rental company has a contract with the state, and the state will bill the rental company. In turn, the rental company will charge the toll to my credit card, plus a $2.95 administrative fee. That’s way better than a fine.

Cable Incompetence

When I finally arrived home and pulled into the driveway, I noticed that half of one of the downspouts was laying on the ground outside. Inside, my cable and Internet weren’t working, but my telephone was, which should have been turned off with the cable and Internet. I had scheduled everything to be turned back on the day I got home. It took many phone calls over a day-and-a-half to get everything restored only to discover that someone at the cable company took it upon themself to upgrade my cable service, which would have added an additional $20 a month to the bill. There were more phone calls and then threats to cancel my service completely before it was reversed.

I don’t want to forget either that after paying my bill in cash at the hotel in Guatemala City, the hotel turned around and also charged my credit card. I’ve stayed at this hotel many times in the past without incident, so will ascribe it to human error instead of it being done intentionally. Fortunately, I retained my receipt. So, a call to the bank to dispute the charge and another call to Best Western for them to investigate the matter from their end. I’m happy to report that yesterday, just as I got a letter from the bank that an investigation had been initiated, I received a phone call that the matter has been resolved and my card has been credited. Important lesson here is to be sure that YOU rip up the blank receipt you signed when you checked in instead of taking the desk clerk’s word for it that it will be done.

Sorting through four months of mail was yet another challenge. Most of it was junk.

Mixed Feelings

I have mixed feelings about being back home. I miss my friends in Guatemala for sure. On the other hand, on a number of levels and for a variety of reasons, it was time to come home. However, I’m looking at going back in December. I just can’t seem to stay away.

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