"Estefani! Estefani!" It was my neighbor clamoring at the gate. She beckoned me outside to the raised metal basket where we jointly put our garbage each night. It was lying on its side, having narrowly missed the front bumper of her vehicle on its way to the ground. Animatedly, she scolded me for having put garbage out too early in the day. Apparently a dog had grabbed the bag and dragged it around the block, knocking down the basket in his messy haste.
Somewhat amused, somewhat frustrated, I felt the need to defend the fact that I had just arrived home from the United States and the garbage being out early wasn't my doing. I knew my husband and kids had just been trying to get the house tidy for my return. With a sigh, I also knew the right thing to do was follow that dumb dog to wherever he had torn apart the garbage and pick it all up. My chattering neighbor walked beside me as we turned the corner onto the busy street of Bilbao. Half a block down my bag lay ripped open, with the golden Labrador nosing through it. He had a collar so this was no case of a stray, simply another cultural example of letting one's dog run loose to wreak havoc on others' property (or worse - as in the case of our daughter's recent dog bite by a neighborhood German Shepherd allowed out of his yard.)
Later when all was said and done, I remarked tongue in cheek to Pedro that "now I know I am back in Chile!" There are so many wonderful aspects of this country, but the dog situation is not one of them. It led me to reflect on those differences I observed on my quick trip to the States, little things that are not really that important but which strike you when you experience them once again.
For instance - big, clean bathrooms. Now I know this isn't true everywhere, but in most airports and other places we visited stateside it was. As a newly pregnant person in greater need of bathrooms that ever before in my life, this was important to me! So it was all the more glaring when upon arriving in Iquique, there was a line for the single stall ladies' bathroom first available off the plane. I opted for the second bathroom available, where a blond foreigner waited hesitantly for the first of two stalls. The other was vacant but she said, "It's not that nice." True, it hadn't been flushed and didn't meet U.S. standards but I had to laugh and reply, "I'm used to it. I live here!"
Secondly - peace and quiet. Again, I know this isn't true everywhere, but in Chile I live in the noisy city and in the States we stay in the suburbs or country. I literally sat in my parents' house and just breathed that first afternoon. No car horns. No construction sounds. No neighbors on the other side of the wall. No late-night parties or loud music. Just ... quiet. I didn't realize how much I needed that break. To be fair, after awhile in the States I miss the city noises! But upon first return, the silence was truly golden.
Thirdly - thick, lush, carpet. This is kind of funny and if we hadn't traveled with an infant (my nephew), I may not have appreciated it so much. But in our corner of the world, everything is ceramic or hard floors. Which makes sense and is fine when you live in the desert where carpets would simply suck up all the dust and never come clean. But with a baby, it is so nice to simply be able to lay him down and let him roll all around without injury! It is also so nice to take off shoes and walk barefoot through comfy carpets. I had nearly forgotten.
I don't know that there is any great point to this post. I just wanted to say it while the thoughts were fresh. In the time it has taken to write, I have been gently rocked by a 4.2 tremor, listened to a passerby loudly singing a love song, hearkened to honking horns, and kept my sweaty sandals on my feet so as to not collect dirt from my shiny red ceramic floor. All differences aside, it is good to be home.