I am so glad to be on this trip. Everyday I think to myself, "Wow, I'm in/at ______" (Carnaval, a farm in Argentina, on a mountain full of llamas...just filling in the blanks wherever I am that day). I have learned so much, from culture and politics, to the different ways to say "peach" in Spanish depending on what country I am in. But as I sit here in the kitchen in the apartment we are renting in Buenos Aires for the month, blissfully eating my first bowl of cereal and glass of Tropicana Orange Juice since I left the States in late December, I am reminded about all the things this trip has made me realize I take for granted. Yes, some of them are big and obvious and very important, such as having clean, running water that is safe to drink and does not need to be boiled. But really it's the little things (such as making jewelry), that often have more to do with my personal preferences, that I am often amused to discover how much I miss when I don't have them.
For instance: Skippy Peanut Butter
I grew up eating this stuff, but in the last few years I have weaned myself off of it and switched to the natural kind. Basically, I never buy Skippy Peanut Butter at home. But let me tell you how bummed I was when Sam and I in the confusion of a hail storm left the jar we had purchased in Panama in a cab in Potosi, Bolivia. Peanut butter is one of those funny foods that is often hard to find in other places and people in a lot of other countries just don't really eat, as I discovered when I had studied abroad in Spain and my language exchange partner gave me a look like "Why would you want to eat that?" when I had asked him where I could find it in Madrid. I never thought I would be so exited to find a jar of it in a little tiny market in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and then go through the entire jar in the next few weeks, particularly during our stay on an (ahem) organic farm because we did not have a refrigerator.
Which actually brings me to my next Thing I Take for Granted:Having a refrigerator.
I don't really think about having a refrigerator at home. It's a basic appliance that is always there. However, when you have cooking appliances but no fridge for 2 weeks, as was the case on the farm you realize how important it is. No fridge basically meant that if we wanted any sort of meat or dairy product with a meal, we had to buy it shortly before we were going to make the meal, and any leftovers either went to the dogs, or got wrapped in plastic bags for a couple hours and we crossed our fingers the ants wouldn't get to them (which they often did).
My next Thing I Take for Granted (and, not surprisingly, is also about food): Breakfast
I love breakfast. It my absolute favorite meal of the day. I could eat breakfast foods for all three meals and be perfectly satisfied. So one of the things I have really missed on many days are what I consider to be a "normal" breakfast. For example, a standard breakfast in Bolivia was usually a piece of bread with butter and/or jam. Now, I absolutely love bread, and again could eat it all day, but to me that is not breakfast. It just does not fill me up. And I miss bacon. Mmm, delicious bacon. (Interesting fact: at Bolivian restaurants, those that have the option of an "American Breakfast" have an absurd amount of food, including bacon!) Also, I really miss my morning cup of drip coffee. I have managed to drinking Nescafe, black, pretty much everyday for breakfast (with the occasional Cafe con leche, which again varies depending on what country you are in, from absurdly sweet in Bolivia to more like a cappuccino in Argentina), but it just doesn't compare. However, I will say that the one thing that I think Latin Americans would realize coming to the States that they take for granted is Dulce de Leche. Why is this not more popular in the States?! It is so delicious, and tastes great on bread, in muffins, on pancakes. I'm definitely incorporating that into my diet when I get home, along with liquidy yogurt with fresh fruit, honey, and muesli mixed in.
My next item, which finally is not about food, but is one of those things that I think is standard on people's lists of Things I Take for Granted: Hot showers
Not only hot showers, but showers in general. I will say, there is something liberating about only washing my hair a couple times a week because the water is too cold, or just not showering in general because there is nowhere to do it, but man, you reallyappreciate a hot shower when you have not had one in two weeks.
Another Things I Take for Granted: Taxis that aren't about to fall apart
When we first arrived in Buenos Aires after a week in Panama followed by 7 weeks in Bolivia, the first thought that Sam and I both independently (and somewhat eerily) had while out to dinner were "The taxis looks so shiny and new!" I don't know that the taxis here look any shinier or newer than the ones in Boston/Cambridge, or most major cities we have been to in the States, but when you have spent 8 weeks riding in ones where you find yourself crossing your fingers that it will not fall apart on the way to your destination and are back in a place where they are not on their last leg, you realize how much you take them for granted.
I could go on, but it is time to get the day started and not take for granted the fact that I'm in Buenos Aires ;-)