Sunday, June 1, 2014

May Adventures: Catching Up, Green Cleaning, and Time at Home

I'm typing this while curled up in my bed.  Winter is well on its way, and my bed is now equipped with flannel sheets and a down comforter.  I also have my space heater on to help keep me warm.

Early in the month I met up with some former students to catch up.  We got dinner at Golfo di Napoli, the delicious Italian restaurant near my apartment.  There were 8 of us altogether, and it was great seeing what everyone was up to.  Some had traveled to the States, while others had finished their professional studies and were now working in their field.  One is working in the Netherlands now as an international researcher.  Others were getting married and having children, and one is going to the World Cup in a few weeks!

We met when I taught them during the second semester of 2012, and being able to stay in contact with them is a great feeling.  Apart from them I don't have many Chileans that I would consider good friends, and I'm so grateful to have them as friends.

I also got to catch up with some other friends over Mexican food at Taxco and another friend over Peruvian food.  There was good food, good drinks, and good company.  Some of them I hadn't seen since last year, so it was good to catch up and have that social time.

About halfway through the month I came to a few realizations:

1. I have been spending a lot of money eating out and buying prepared food.
2. If I want to pay back my student loans and also travel, something was going to have to change.

This isn't just about eating out with friends.  I had gotten into the habit of ordering Papa John's or Peruvian food each weekend, and I was also eating out for lunch a few days a week.  While it doesn't seem like much, it really adds up.

I also saw a friend's post on Facebook that got me thinking.  It said that cleaning and cooking are forms of meditation, and it really struck me.  I feel like I had been so engrossed in spending time online when I wasn't working that I had let these things fall by the wayside.  

My sister in law that lives in North Carolina had introduced me to green cleaning when I visited her and my brother in January, and I had brought back some supplies to start doing so.  I had used my standard cleaning products sparingly, somehow worrying that green cleaning would be difficult or that I would somehow mess it up.  

One Saturday I decided to give it a try.  I started with mixing some castille soap and baking soda to make a paste to clean the bathtub.  It fizzed and smelled good, and I put the paste on a sponge.  It cleaned easily, and it smelled great afterwards.  So then I decided to try a few other things.  Armed with a mini manual, I made a mixture of water and vinegar in a squirt bottle.  I used it to clean the kitchen and bathroom floor.  

I was so surprised and excited about it that I gave her a call shortly thereafter.  She was really happy for me and gave me some more tips.  Her biggest advice, however, was something that was really nice to hear: Have fun with it.

The other part of this meditation equation was cooking.  I cleaned through my cupboards and took stock of what food I had and what I'd need to buy to do some cooking.  I didn't really have to buy much to make some good, basic meals.  I started out with brown rice and veggies.  Letting the rice soak, steaming the broccoli and veggies, and then adding some meat flavoring made a nice meal that could be a full meal or side dish.  Other dishes have been chicken and veggies, spaghetti with homemade bolognese sauce, and oven baked chicken with mac and cheese.  Next week I'm going to give my own recipe of aj√≠ de gallina a try.

Another thing that came out of this new cooking and cleaning routine was the a new look at the physical space I'm living in.  While it isn't dirty, I have gotten into the habit of leaving papers and things lying in random places.  Organizing my physical space is still a work in progress, but with time I know it will get done.

It's so easy to get wrapped up in work and then to just fall into habits of spending time online or watching TV, but spending the time at home doing more productive things makes me feel better about myself and gives me a sense of accomplishment.

Wednesday May 21st was a holiday here, commemorating Chile's participation in a naval battle against Peru.  Even though Chile lost, the 21st was declared a national holiday to remember the lives lost and worthy effort of the Chilean navy.  It was a nice day to put the cleaning and cooking habit to good use.

To remind everyone of the opposite seasons here compared to the Northern Hemisphere, I leave you of a photo of what I looked like before going to work while people in the States were enjoying the nice spring weather on Memorial Day:

I hope all of the teachers reading this are having an enjoyable end of the school year and that everyone is enjoying the start of summer!

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