So. We’re back. Where to start?

The trip home was amazing, even better than either of us expected it to be. Of course we had expected to spend much quality time with our friends and family, and we did. What we hadn’t foreseen was just how much time we would get to spend with our respective families, living our daily lives with them in a way neither of us had done in years.

When we’re living in Santa Cruz, we’ll frequently eat dinner with my family, or meet them out for a movie, but really the only time we ever stay over at my mom’s house is on Christmas Eve. Similarly, the most we ever visit Gabe’s family is for a day or two, generally staying one night and then coming home the next day. But this time, we each got to spend multiple nights and days in a row with our families, which for a couple of family junkies like us is pure heaven.

For me, it felt like going home for Christmas break during college — without all the insecurities and other crap that accompanied those years. Now that I no longer had to worry about boys and What To Do With My Life, I could just relax and enjoy the company of my family, my mom’s cooking, and the beautiful surroundings I’ve missed so much.

Every morning, I had coffee waiting for me when I got up, which is pretty much my idea of bliss. I had dinner with my family every night, sometimes at a restaurant, but mostly at home. In between those two fixtures of my day, I worked, shopped, and ate almost every meal with my mom; ran and laughed myself silly with my brother; and talked with, drank tea, and watched Jon Stewart with my aunt and uncle every evening.

I caught up with dear friends over coffee, tea, lunch, and during walks. I drank as many nonfat cappuccinos and ate as much cottage cheese as I could stand… then had some more. I met new babies, saw new houses, and chatted with total strangers at the store — just because I could. I ran so much I injured myself, I walked on the beach and in the forest, and I revisited my favorite spin class. At night, when Gabe was with his family, I stayed up reading for hours and luxuriated in having a whole bed to myself for the first time in months.

I shopped literally until I dropped, and came back with an entire plastic storage bin worth of food, vitamins, and other sundries that we can’t get in Portugal:

(In related news, I am thinking of opening my own resale business here, selling vitamins and Luna bars at only a small markup. What do you think?)

For his part, Gabe went snowboarding twice, stayed up late talking with his parents, sister and brother-in-law, helped our nieces practice the piano, attended their various holiday plays and piano recitals, ate marvelous food made by his sister and mother, and generally enjoyed being around his family again. I joined him up there for a couple of wonderful and action-packed weekends, including his 42nd birthday dinner as well as a weekend with his newly discovered Swedish cousins (more on that to come.)

Basically, we had an amazing trip home, and have returned to Portugal fully revitalized and refreshed by the time spent with our loved ones. Even though I was sad to leave home, I’m surprised to find that I am glad to be back in Lisbon. I have missed our little flat, the bustle and shabbiness of the streets, the endearing and infuriatingly casual nature of it all. Most of all though, I missed my husband, as he was the one person I didn’t see that much of during our month at home! So it’s nice to catch up with him, to have our usual routine back again, and to trade impressions of home and how it feels to be back.

Strangely, we’ve agreed that it doesn’t feel strange at all to be here. It’s still foreign, yes, and different. But now it’s a difference we know and can navigate. Going to the big department store supermarket on a crowded Saturday afternoon, for example, wasn’t as overwhelming as it would’ve been when we first got here. Now we know more or less what is available and what we like, so even though we were tired and jetlagged, it was only a matter of finding what we needed in a store we weren’t used to navigating.

To my surprise, I am finding the switch back to Portuguese from English almost relaxing. Because I don’t understand it, I can tune out background conversation and the buzz of voices in a way that I’m unable to do in English. At home I could once again make inane conversation, and relished my ability to do so. But I also found myself incredibly irritated by having to hear and understand everyone else’s inane conversations around me — at least here they sound pretty!

In other words, we’ve already done most of the hard work of adjusting to life in Portugal. Now we can relax and enjoy our second quarter here, content and full with the knowledge that our home, friends, and family will always be waiting for us back in California.

And of course, here are pictures from our time at home — some taken with our brand new red camera! Thanks Santa! These start with photos from my weekend in San Fran with Mom, including the Dickens Faire, continuing through tree decoration (v. 1, since the tree fell over that night and had to be redecorated all over again!), Christmas, random photos with my new camera, eating Eggettes (a Japanese waffle) with Mom the day before we left, and our goodbye Moroccan dinner and belly-dancing extravaganza with Gabe’s family, also the night before we left.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Home for the Holidays“, posted with vodpod