The Downside to Expat Life

My family came to visit this week.

My cousin got married yesterday in the Riviera Maya, so my parents and oldest sister have been staying in Playa del Carmen. We spent the whole weekend together, and I’ve been making the 1-hour bus ride from Cancun to Playa every night to have dinner with them. Yesterday at my cousin’s wedding, we got to spend the whole day at a luxury resort with many of my grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. It has been a tiring but amazing week! (Yes, I will have lots of pictures and stories for you over the next few days!)

An unbelievably good-looking family! (minus the red-eye)

But yesterday I had to say goodbye. My parents return home today, and yesterday was the last chance I’d get to see the rest of the family before they head home later in the week. (I will still get to see my sister and a few cousins over the next week, though.)

Expat life is thrilling in so many ways… the cultural exchange, overcoming personal challenges, exploring a new country, transforming into a stronger person than you ever knew you could be.

But I miss my family.

Since I began working almost 3 years ago, I only get to see my family once or twice a year. I call my parents regularly and text a lot with my sisters, but it’s never quite the same as in person.

When I’m in Mexico, I miss my family. When I’m in the US, I miss my husband and my friends.

No matter where I am, I’m always missing somebody.

And that is the biggest downside to expat life.

 

Christmas and Culture Shock

Hello all! I’m back from good ole Richmond, Virginia, and it was a very Merry Christmas indeed. This was my first time back in Richmond after more than 3 years, and I got to see family and friends I hadn’t seen in forever.

Jorge LOVED the US. He liked the houses, mainly because they “don’t have bars on the windows, like in Mexico”. Very true. I took him to my favorite outdoor mall, and he was a bit overwhelmed but definitely enjoying himself. I have to admit I miss US malls, too… although I did feel bad for the shirtless guy standing in the freezing cold of the Abercrombie and Fitch entrance.

I was excited to be back in my hometown of Richmond! I got to see lots of friends and family I hadn’t seen in over 3 years. Jorge got to see my high school, middle school, elementary school, church and old house.

Everything seemed so much bigger and grander than I remember. In Cancun all the houses are right next to eachother (no side yards, shared walls) and yards are usually just tiny squares of concrete. The bigger houses here have walls around them, and almost all houses here have bars on the windows. In Richmond, the yards were so huge and the houses so much larger than they needed to be that I felt like I was way in the country or something (even though it was just the suburbs). Even houses I used to think were small growing up, today they look immense!

All the shopping centers and restaurants looked so pristine it was overwhelming. Immaculate storefronts were surrounded by massive amounts of parking space. Where were the flimsy taco stands? Where were the family-owned corner stores? Why are there so many SUVs? Who would go to a huge shopping center in the middle of nowhere? (a lot of people, apparently)

The only thing big about Cancun is the potholes.

I was seeing the first stages of reverse culture shock, and I was only there for 3 days. Everything from the cars to the houses, restaurants, movie theaters and malls was just so BIG and PERFECT. It was lovely, but I was glad to get back to the sun and tiny concrete houses of Cancun.

Here are a few pics. The lights are from the James Center in downtown Richmond, and the rest are just family photos taken at my grandparents’ house.

How was your Christmas?

My Mexican Thanksgiving

As I was going through some pictures yesterday, I realized I hadn’t told you about my Thanksgiving!

Back in the US, my family does Thanksgiving just like everyone else’s family… turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy and lots of desserts! When I was in college in Cancun, I never had any fall breaks. Now that I’m working, I only get back home for Christmas. So I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving since 2005, I think. (or seen any fall weather, for that matter!)

This year, my suegros took pity on me and prepared a lovely Thanksgiving dinner. They invited some of their friends, and I invited some of mine. We had a pretty big group (not all are pictured), including an American priest from the church my suegros go to.

There was turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and lots of veggies! Everyone seemed to really enjoy all the American food. I was almost expecting them to break out the tortillas, but they resisted.

Thanksgiving dinner still had some undeniably Mexican touches to it, though… dinner didn’t begin until 10:30 pm, the turkey was heavily seasoned with lime, the dinner was blessed by a Catholic priest, and the priest had to explain the Thanskgiving story several times to our Mexican guests. Close enough!

Me being a dork

Oh mashed potatoes… it’s been too long since we last met!

My Christmas in Charlotte

I went to visit my family in Charlotte, NC for Christmas this year.

To be honest, I was way too busy eating, wrapping presents and hanging out to take many photos, but I did manage to get a few in there!

Massive amounts of presents! and yes, we hang out stockings on the couch. We're crazy like that.

Table set for Christmas breakfast!

Our annual Christmas breakfast... sausage and egg casserole! (with cinnamon rolls and fresh pineapple)

My sister's crazy but adorable kitten, Olive

Avert your eyes, vegetarians! Sarah's boyfriend Jared made some venison burger sliders from a buck he hunted himself.

Venison sliders... surprisingly more flavorful than beef!

Our Christmas day "lunch"... venison sliders, sausage and cheese balls, french onion dip and baked cheese dip.

All the desserts we had for Christmas... chocolate fudge, Christmas cookies, pecan pie and chocolate chip cheesecake (a personal favorite)

The family! (minus Jorge)

Sorry it took so long to post these… had some strange computer/photo/Wordpress issues, but I think we’re back now!

Wedding Blessings

45 days til the wedding!

I have to admit, I was stressing out for a few months because costs just kept adding up and adding up. I hadn’t really told anyone that except for Jorge and my wedding planner, Marina.

It got to the point where I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to have a few things I wanted due to budget constraints. I just couldn’t get excited about anything because I was worrying about money, and I felt guilty for anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary. We got everything at a great price, but with 250 guests and 25 tables, EVERYTHING is expensive!

We love and cherish every single one of our guests, so cutting the guest list was never an option. Actually we did cut it… it WAS at 330!! It stressed me out having so many people, but when I think about it, how awesome is it to have SO MANY friends that you care that much about?

Anyway, recent budget changes and some very generous family and friends have placed everything well within our budget!!! Hurray!!! Stress no longer! I can finally enjoy this, and I’m gonna be milkin it for all it’s worth!

Anyway, I’d like to take this time to thank the people who have made all this possible:

-My parents, who have generously paid for most of our wedding budget. Without you, it wouldn’t be as beautiful as it’s going to be. I hope you both love it as much as I do.

Noelle, Mommy, Daddy, Sarah and Yours Truly

-My mother in particular, for her amazing talent. Thanks to her seamstress skills, my $5,000 dream dress only cost $250. The wedding invitations she made look professional, and only cost $100. (Remind me to do a post on the invites! They’re so cute!)

-My grandparents, who have helped all my family members to be able to make it down to Cancun.

-My future in-laws, who are helping us financially as well as helping us make so many decisions. I know at the end of a long day, the last thing you want to do is go over a guest list with me… AGAIN. Thanks for doing it with a smile on your face.

Jorge and Glenty at their vow renewal reception

-Juan and Viri, our great friends, who are generously paying for our cake. (chocolate-nut flavored! woo-hoo!)

-Jorge’s aunts and uncles, who are helping us pay for a few things and have saved us so much money (We’re renting a charter bus for my family to get from Cancun to Merida the day of… one uncle got the price from $1500 to $600 dollars!)

-Jorge’s grandmother, who is making the flower girl dresses herself

-Jorge’s mother, who is making 100 candles for us, along with the centerpieces.

-My bridesmaids, who put up with my indecisiveness and always make me feel special. (I’m missing pictures of Isis, Jorge’s cousin, but I love you just the same!) My mistake was having seven gorgeous bridesmaids. It’s gonna be tough to outshine them all!!!

Thanks sisters, for always photoshopping me in when I couldn't be there.

Me with Zareth and Viri

Damayanti

Julyssa

-My wedding planner, who is doing all this for FREE. You’re awesome, Marina. Thanks for putting up with all the last-minute changes, for all the great ideas, and for winning the hearts of florists, makeup artists and DJs. You’re going to make an awesome wedding planner, and I’m proud to be your first bride.

Me with coordinator Marina and bridesmaid Julie

-Iliana, the sales manager at Hacienda Teya. I have sent you thousands of e-mails, and you always responded within 24 hours. You’ve made everything so easy, and thanks for bending over backwards to get me everything I’ve asked for, even when you didn’t have to. You’re my favorite person I’ve never met.

-My horrible math skills, which brought me great relief in times of trouble. (I might have miscalculated a few things and thought it was going to be $1000 dollars more expensive than it was going to be… oops. I felt really stupid and somewhat concerned about my financial skills, but also friggin ecstatic, when I noticed that slip-up.)

I’M SO EXCITED NOW!!!! 😀 I think it’s awesome that so many people have come together to make this day awesome for us, including all of our guests, who are traveling short and long distances to be there on our special day. (250 people willing to travel anywhere from one hour to 10 hours just to be there? Amazing. God has really blessed us.)

Check back in tomorrow to see pictures of the tuxes for the groomsmen!!