I still remember how awkward and forced my first conversations in Spanish felt when I was studying in Spain and then first living in Mexico as a 21 year old. A lot of it had to do with my own immaturity, naivete and not feeling at home living in a new culture and new place.
It's been 12 years since I moved to Mexico. I speak Spanish every day now and for the most part do it without thinking about it. Though there are times that I know I still feel more me when I speak in my mother tongue of English, which is why I know I'm so blessed to be surrounded by expats and people who speak my native language.
It's an interesting experience living abroad that you can't really understand unless you're in the thick of it.
You see, when I first moved to Guadalajara, it was temporary or so I thought/had planned. Home was still Minnesota where I was still holding on to so many friendships and being diligent about writing emails and letters to amazing people I now hardly speak to.
Home was building snowmen while visiting family and friends and constantly hearing the questions, "So when are you coming back? You know there's teaching jobs here too, right? Are you tired of your adventure yet? Weren't you only going for 2 years? Why are you staying longer?"
But somehow over the last 12 years, Home has changed.
Home is found in a city of 4 million people.
Home is our community of people here that hold us up when we are down, that we can lean on when things are hard, that we can laugh with until we cry and cherish the first steps or words of our kids as they grow up together.
Home is often found now in a world of Spanish language with our kids growing up bilingually and surrounded by all sorts of cultures as people from all over the world make Guadalajara their home.
Home is a sisterhood of Mexican women who have embraced me, celebrated me and are ready to help at a moment's notice when I tear my ACL by bringing food, watching my kids and letting me cry.
Home is playdates with a family from Ohio who just moved here, or friends from Tijuana who invite us to the pool on the days it's too hot to do anything else.
Home is a group of women from Phoenix, San Diego, Honduras and Seattle who can understand the annoyances of waiting in line for hours to get a simple paper signed or can drink wine on a Friday afternoon and chat for hours in English about raising kids with our partners from other countries or this or that - this is priceless when living abroad.
Home is a 64-year-old nanny who has been with us since Max was 10 weeks old and loves our kids as if they were her own grandchildren.
Home is my husband from Peru, me from Minnesota and our Mexican-born children.
Guadalajara is such a beautiful mix of culture, language, chaos, traffic, palm trees, tacos and people.
This is home.
May you too find and cherish your home wherever you find yourself.