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Infinite Country by Patricia Engel | Thoughts

   Published : 2021   ||    Format : print   ||    Location : Colombia ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆   What was it about the country that kept everyone hostage to its fantasy? The previous month, on its own soil, an American man went to his job at a plant and gunned down fourteen coworkers, and last spring alone there were four different school shootings. A nation at war with itself, yet people still spoke of it as some kind of paradise.. Thoughts : Infinite Country follows two characters - young Talia, who at the beginning of this book, escapes a girl’s reform school in North Colombia so that she can make her previously booked flight to the US. Before she can do that, she needs to travel many miles to reach her father and get her ticket to the rest of her family. As we follow Talia’s treacherous journey south, we learn about how she ended up in the reform school in the first place and why half her family resides in the US. Infinite Country tells the story of her family through the other protagonist, El

2020: My Year in Life, Living, and Fun

2020, in more ways than one, was a different and atypical year. After three years of minimal reading and blogging, this is the year I dusted the cobwebs off my bookshelves and opened my blog back up to see if I could be here more often than not. There was no way to know without diving right in. And so, I managed to create a routine for the first two-and-a-half months and it felt very good to be blogging again. 

And then as a cruel take on the phrase 'best-laid plans', a virus of all things wrecks the world in March. In addition to now taking our work home while also looking after a then-preschooler and a toddler, my company went through a layoff. Thankfully, I still had a job but I was looking at months of adjustment to new routines in all spheres of my life. It was not easy, not by any definition of the word, but thankfully, luckily, it wasn't too bad.

The rest of 2020 went by in a blur. On the one hand, I was extremely grateful for the extra family time that we all got. While life was more complicated, I realized that not having to deal with the daily commute and also being able to much more easily step away from work when I needed a break helped my mental health a lot. I've always wanted to work remote while my kids were still young. This wish did not include stay-home kids but each day was interesting and some were more challenging than others. On the flip side though, some things were harder than usual. We gave up on trying to keep a clean home. Sometimes when you just want to sit down and lose yourself in some joyscrolling, the only way to do that could be by letting the kids make a mess. If you look away, you don't see the mess, right? 

I know that, in the grand scheme of things, my experience is certainly on the luckier side. I can work from home, my kids are too young to be traumatized by 2020, we had plenty of family help for better part of the year, and neither of us lost or had to switch jobs. We didn't get sick with the virus yet and were able to engage in occasional socially distanced gatherings with friends. We also don't know of anyone in our closest circle who got sick either. If there are some things I've learned from 2020, they are:

**1. I still enjoy working from home a lot - it's my preferred way of working though I would much appreciate socializing with my colleagues. 

**2. I have always yearned to do some kind of early education teaching. However, after this year, I've decided to leave that to the experts. My respect for teachers has grown immensely this year. It's challenging work, for sure. While I did enjoy the experience and the insight into teaching little kids, I do miss the freestyle education opportunities, like reading a book because you want to not because you have to. Doing fun projects for fun, rather than to snap a picture to send to the teacher. Doing an activity for as long as needed and not cutting it short because, gosh, we have 5 more tasks to complete today. Nop, let me continue to remain a parent and leave the teaching to others.

**3. There's no shame in reading short and fast books all the time, oh yeah! There's also no shame in putting down a book, no matter which book, if it's not working out at the moment. While I do someday want to read that slow, emotional gut-wrenching book that's the talk of the town, 2020 was not the year to do that. There are plenty of fast and emotional books, or maybe fast and cheesy books that filled my year. I mean, so what if you had to put down The Vanishing Half when everyone else loved it?

**4. If there's ever been a hobby that can be considered the equivalent of meditation, it is knitting. This Fall, I picked my needles back up and found instant release for all those daily stresses. I am a much slower knitter right now than I was couple of years ago, but I also sensed a change in my approach this time. I'm no longer looking at the finished product but more trying to enjoy the process.

**5. Sometimes a long-running television show that is fun but can also teach you about the world and yourself is the best thing to lose yourself in. I rediscovered my love for Star Trek this past year with The Next Generation and Picard, and somehow cannot believe I didn't try to watch more Star Trek sooner. In so many ways, TNG is now going to always remind me of 2020 and this difficult year. 

**6. Staying home all the time is very difficult, even for an introvert. I may love my books and my needles a lot and feel that my home is my relaxing place, but every time I saw people, whether while driving by, or browsing in a store, or in socially distanced backyard parties, I realized just how much I have taken social company for granted.

**7. I had so much time to do home projects. Usually, these have languished in our someday lists while we complained of a lack of time. In 2020 however, we redid our patio, painted and setup our office room, setup our home theater system in the basement, and even are in the process of getting quotes for flooring and kitchen renovations that we hope to start early this year. 

**8. Oh, and how can you forget 2020 without also talking about gardening? Before I picked up knitting, that was what meditation meant. There are whole sections of our yard/garden that I paid no attention to, until this Spring. I laugh thinking about how I would water the plants every morning for much of the Spring and Summer. We spent way more on plants last year than we planned to, but we also reaped a lot more than we usually do. I definitely suffered from gardening fatigue by the end of the season but I'm looking forward to next season already. 

**9. Staycation last year meant spending your days in other rooms in your house (other than your office room). I literally went through weekends when I hated even sitting in my office chair. In February, almost a month before everything shut down, we actually spent the President's Day weekend at the Grand Opryland Resort in Nashville. Looking through the Covid-19 lens, I find it aghast that I spent so many days surrounded by so many people in a place that could be a hotspot of hotspots for this virus. And yet, I am glad I took that vacation - it was our last pre-pandemic trip that was spent surrounded by a LOT of people.

**10. Last, but not the least, I miss eating out. We haven't dined at a restaurant since March but we have done takeout often. That said, not all meals do well as takeout. Sometimes, you just want to be pampered at a place that's not your home, eat a meal that you didn't cook, out of plates that are not your own, and then be able to walk away satisfied and without thinking about dishes that still need to be washed. 

It's funny - never has a year been so defined by one thing and one thing alone. I almost can't remember January or February or anything about what made those months tick. They were just filled with days that continued our status quo, that were full of hope, since the year was still new. In other ways, 2020, as horrible as it was, was also a huge learning experience for me. There were things I took for granted and there were experiences I could never enjoy because I was so busy living day by day, crossing my to-do lists and marching towards god-knows-where. A lot of things acquired new meaning this past year, and thankfully I realized what's more important and what's not. Some day, we'll get back to our robotic days but I hope that I will remember how much the struggle was real this year, how many lives were lost, and how good it felt to step back and observe.

I'm glad though that 2020 is also the year that someone very bad lost. I remember feeling full of hope during much of 2016, only to feel very hopeless as the year ended. 2020 was the fitting opposite to that year in so many ways. As I look towards 2021, I can't help but feel lighter. There's a vaccine coming, there's a possibility of normalcy waiting just on the horizon, there's a new leader coming - so much to be grateful for as we start this new year. 


Henry Nash said…
Great blog, I enjoyed reading