Leah: Steve's been out in California visiting his family for the last week and my folks were down in Arizona for Rockies baseball spring training, so I've had some solo time to adjust (maybe), unpack (sorta) and train Theta (ha!) We'll have an out-of-sequence post coming up in terms of our final stop in Helsinki and the initial days after arriving home, but for now I'm just going to free-flow and see what happens. Apologies on the lack of pictures as well, but I haven't really had the camera around much this week so I had to resort to an old Norway picture to give a snowy Colorado feeling!

Grocery stores- they're a tad unnerving, which is how I've felt every time I returned home from a lengthy trip abroad, especially after Peace Corps. There's just so much stuff! I suppose it's not that bad coming directly from the UK but when I think back on the places we shopped on the trip, our American football field-sized emporiums of everything consumable blows my mind. And let's not even talk about the heaps of processed and pre-packaged food; of course it was there before we left but it stands out in stark contrast now that we've had 20 months of cooking meals from scratch and having our former hosts do the same. Conversely, however, our breadth and variety of organic and natural foodstuffs remains truly staggering and a point of envy for many foreigners, as they never fail to remind us.

Roads- they're straight and wide, a far cry from the serpentine (almost) single-car lanes in the UK punctured by the omnipresent nefarious roundabouts, or the non-existent versions in South America. And our cars, of course, are massive. While it felt wrong to be driving on the right side of the road for the first week, I think I'm back to normal now.

Customer Service- Holy cow I missed it! I forgot what it's like to have a meal out where the server checks in frequently, fills your water without being asked and everyone smiles and wishes you a great day. We really do maintain our reputation as a nation of friendly people (in fact, we've met foreigners who told us they thought they were being made fun of when they visited America and everyone was so overly affable). Granted, this is also endemic of a problem where we pay many of these people a minimum wage and their livelihood depends on their customer service savoir-faire, but it doesn't make it any less of a treat for me!

TV- I knew before we came home that I would need to make a concerted effort not to binge-watch too much, especially since there are so many shows and movies we'd like to catch up on. However, we kept falling asleep trying to make it through evening entertainment and being near television- on or off- now makes me slightly anxious. I'm attributing that to the fact that it hasn't featured on our trip and many places we stayed didn't even own one. Don't get me wrong; I can't wait to get up to speed on Downtown Abbey and re-watch all the Harry Potter flicks with Steve, but the idea of daily viewing now freaks me out. Besides, there are way too many books to read.

Suburbia/Cities- We are beyond blessed that my folks not only have the space for us, but welcomed us and Theta back with open arms; we're relishing having them near and the safety and familiarity that comes with. However, we're now firmly entrenched in suburbia and while I never tire of Colorado's endless sky or the glorious snow-capped Rockies to the west, I've already felt claustrophobic a few times. Luckily Colorado also sports hosts of outdoor locations and attractions that don't feature highrises, traffic or next-door neighbors, but I ache for a glimpse of cows through the kitchen window (although we did have three does and two majestic bucks the other day), rolling tracts of land and the taste of an unadulterated breeze on my tongue.

Clothes- I wear the same ones I did on the trip and if I happen to branch out into my pre-trip wardrobe, I don those garments for about five days straight. Having a closet of clothes seems downright decadent so I'm much more comfortable in the pants and shirts that have seen me across the world. However, I am reveling in my longed-for accessories, especially what I somewhat morbidly call my "dead people jewelry". These pieces consist of memorial necklaces, rings and bracelets that remind me of Jayna and Minger and were the only other personal effects I missed just as much as my engagement and wedding ring. I also pine for my wellies and despite blogging months ago about how I just wanted to wear cute shoes again, the grass is always greener because now the only thing I gravitate toward in shoe sections are the wellies and work boots. Doh.

Weather- You know you're officially in Colorado when it can be 80 degrees one day and snow the next. Or when you wake up to a winter wonderland and by early afternoon everything has melted, leaving nary a trace of the snowy fairyland from mere hours before. After being constantly cold for so long on the last legs of the trip, my body doesn't know quite what to do with the fact that I can once again walk around in flip flops and a t-shirt. The only down side? I was hoping our sled dog would have a more gradual introduction to CO's sunny skies.

Missing my husband- This is the one I'm most excited about. After untold amounts of time together and making each other laugh, scream and everything in between I finally have physical and emotional space. It's all the more real since we can't even talk on the phone while he's in CA, as he doesn't yet have a cellphone. I miss his voice, his scruffy beard, the smell of his shirts and kissing him goodnight. After months upon months of taking all those for granted and having the littlest things drive me crazy, I'm ecstatic at the thought of seeing him again in a few days.

I think that'll do for now. The coming weeks will see us sharing more insights, acclimatization stories and revealing the grand total for what this zany adventure cost. In the meantime, I'm going to cuddle with the Arctic beast and contemplate taking a shower for the first time in days before heading to the airport to pick up my folks. I also know there are oodles of you I need to connect with. The jet-lag is kicking my butt and I'm still acclimating to carrying a cellphone around, in addition to taking plenty of time to just sit in my own head and process. I'll reach out soon but my number is the same as before, so feel free to use it!

Love to you all,


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