Flying over Miami, it's like looking down over a patchwork quilt of agricultural land next to industrial areas, all spotted with communities of homes, business, schools and parks. Straight roads and long highways cut across the land, all business-like, uncaring of what is in their path; only intent on their destination. The skyscrapers and huge parking lots give me a thrill - finally, a glimpse of civilization!
Living in the Caribbean is not all that glamorous. I'm sure I've mentioned this before. The water is salty, the sun unbearable, the infrastructure lacking and the amenities expensive. Living, truly living, on the island is not at all about the beaches and the hotels and the tourist spots. It's about hoping a local bus shows up soon so you don't melt in the sun, shopping for milk on Thursdays when it's at its freshest and coming back home only to realize the power was out at some point that day.
I am always eager about the two weeks of vacation time, when I can get away from the mosquitoes and heat and expensive lifestyle (for average/below-average living, per US standards). Of course it's mostly about coming home to the family and enjoying a relaxing few weeks catching up with them. But the fact that I can do it in a country like US makes it that much better. Living away has increased my love for the US ten-fold; I fervently appreciate the conveniences that once used to be taken-for-granted-everyday-living.
I've made the trip back from the islands to the States 5 times now, and each time my heart still swells with excitement at the first sight of US soil and my eyes still well up as I approach New York at its glittering finest in the middle of the night. The silly grin that plasters itself on my face from the moment I see New York/New Jersey doesn't really let up until we pull up into the driveway at home and enter my home again, for the first time in four months. That feeling of complete content is always missing until I inhale my first lung-full of the smells of home.