2,077 Miles from Chicago

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There’s something comforting about a neighborhood Walmart. Some scenic turns through the area surrounding Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport allowed us to see chickens strutting in the narrow streets, with cars parked however the owner felt convenient. The wandering cats are in need of Purina. I opted against attempting to play fetch con los gatos.

The roads immediately leading from the airport to Fajardo were a bit circuitous and GPS wasn’t immensely helpful, beyond triggering my fight of floor it reactions. Our rental car is a Mitsubishi hatchback, light on features and horsepower. Eventually we wound our way to the interstate and made it to the hotel.

In an effort to be efficient, my girlfriend mailed our fluids (contact solution, bug spray, sunscreen) two weeks ago. The thought was we wouldn’t have to wait for checked bags. The USPS, being occupied with delivering Christmas cards, has yet to deliver our package. So, with a dinner recommendation from the front desk we adventured out to get dinner and contact solution.

Our first stop was the restaurant. It was full and the host told two women in front of us they were closed. We hopped back into the hatch and drove toward the Walgreens. We spotted a familiar, glowing sign.

WAL-MART
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I have often lamented my irritations with Walmart’s clientele back home. Oddly, after a day of flying, driving, and being hungry, the familiar store brought a weird amount of comfort. Everyone may be speaking Spanish, but I know these aisles. Following up the trip to Wendy’s drive-thru may not have been authentic Puerto Rican comida, but I stopped caring about that as soon as I could feel the hangry coming on.

Tonight, we ate Wendy’s on the hotel bed and watched A Charlie Brown Christmas. As the locals say, esta bueno.

I’m reminded today of the mindset that we hear about in all those TED talks. We learn more about ourselves, not through introspection, but by testing our boundaries and extending our comfort zone. At no point did I feel horribly unsafe; the surroundings are just different. And my Español is nowhere near my remedial French.

I also recalled that little bit of mom wisdom when turning out the lights tonight. I may be six feet tall and finish my burritos at Chipotle, but always pack a nightlight. I always forget something when traveling.

Tomorrow is a new day. We shake off the previous day and embark on trekking the only rainforest in the U.S., el yunque.

Hasta mañana.

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