Returning to Austin feels like a weird disconnect in time. Last fall, when I got back to the US, I went back to Portland for a few weeks before leaving for Austin. Portland didn’t feel like the same place to me. Not that anything was bad about it, but I just felt like I was ready to carry on. I was excited to head on to Austin.

Before coming back here, I wondered what it would feel like to return to Austin. I knew I had some friends here waiting to see me again and a little bit of me was excited to get in my kitchen again and cook fish tacos and to go swimming… everything is always happy in the moment. I can make happy from anything… it takes so little to make me happy. I slice the avocado and taste how creamy it is and a smile erupts on my face–I can’t contain it. I sit in Halcyon with one of my friends laughing over how good the heat feels and that’s all I have–that moment.

But then people start asking me, “What are you going to do come September? It’s crazy you don’t have a plan!” I never realized how much people worry about everything. I don’t think I really worry about anything… because why? I just take every moment as it comes to me. I let myself enjoy the avocado. Maybe tomorrow I will die tragically in a fire. Or maybe I will win a Pulitzer. It doesn’t matter either way if I can’t just peacefully eat an avocado right now and enjoy that.

Austin has a distinct smell when it is warm. It’s heat rising off of the Colorado River. I walk up South Congress and the air is hot but dry and it radiates on my skin, matching all the color on me. I looked up and down the street, excited to see what, if anything, had changed. I’m more excited by change than familiarity. But little has changed, give or take a few businesses closing and a few opening.

My friend Juan is waiting for me and when I say, “estoy muy cansada,” he laughs, I look down and around at myself wondering what it is and he informs me that I seem to have picked up an accent! I now speak Spanish with a bit of a lisp–a lisp I did not have the last time I was here, a lisp that usually only belongs to speakers from Spain, pinpointing for me that my pronunciation has gone Andalusian in nature, commenting that it is weird because my speaking ability has improved significantly despite the fact that I did not visit Spain.

I started thinking about all the ways I knew I was in Austin again:

  • I’m in HEB, the grocery store, successfully having a conversation with the deaf cashier in sign language, telling him about the web app that I have developed recently. He asks for more information.
  • I am terrified of the swarm of grackles flooding the power lines outside. Thousands of them lined up, waiting to poop on unsuspecting pedestrians.
  • A girl with pink, purple, and blue hair who I do not know in any sense is asking me questions about Europe because she is just genuinely interested when I tell her I just got back.
  • Everyone (but me) has that long drawl of an accent.
  • Everyone has a sincere smile on their face.

Yesterday, I had the honor of going through all of my change from Europe.

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I didn’t realize I had been lugging around this much money. I didn’t bother going to the currency exchange anywhere when I was in Europe. This took a really long time to sort out and it made me really appreciate the consistency of Euro coins. They all have the same type of design, same font. I didn’t realize the first time around, until allixsenos pointed it out to me, that the back of the Euro coins is minted differently in each country. So the 1 Euro coin is different in Greece than it is from Germany. I really did not notice this when I was in France and Spain last year.

The British coins are the most annoying, I think. The 2 pence coin is huge. It’s double the size of a 5 pence coin. Why? No one knows. It’s totally illogical. Some of the coins are shaped differently as well. Swedish Kronar and Serbian Dinar are confusing in some respect because each has a 10 note and a 10 coin. But anyway, the above broke down into:

  • 64.15 Euro
  • 3927 Serbian Dinar
  • 1 Pfennig
  • 60 Turkish Kuru
  • 4 Canadian dollars
  • 33.25 Croatian Kuna
  • 62 Swedish Kronar
  • 21.29 British Pounds.
  • 10 Nuevos Soles (why I was carrying Peruvian money around Europe, I’ll never know)

This is roughly $179 USD. That’s right, I was carrying $180 in coins. I have no idea how I got my hands on a German Pfennig–it’s essentially worthless since Germany is on the Euro. I think I’m glad I went to Croatia when I did because it officially became part of the EU yesterday! So I visited it in a very historical time, between it being voted in and it actually joining. That’s kind of cool.