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3,000 miles, 2 passports, 1 dilemma. | Notice

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I’m jealous.

Jealous of those who can drive to a nearby town to visit their grandparents or walk a few blocks to talk with an aunt or cousin. For those whose homes are so close that unplanned visits are common, home-cooked meals can be shared while still warm, and FaceTime isn’t the only mode of communication.

You see, half of my family lives 2,614 miles across the world. I can’t leave Round Rock, Texas on a random Tuesday afternoon and hug my abuela or abuelo just because I feel like it – oceans and countries create stubborn division.

No, I have to leave my house at 2 a.m. to catch a 5 a.m. flight to Houston, endure international customs before boarding a six-hour flight to Panama, and then fidget impatiently for endless stops before finally boarding a plane bound for Quito, Ecuador. After the three-hour plane ride, a night in a hotel awaits you before an early morning flight to Cuenca, Ecuador. At last.

However, every time I return to Cuenca – the city of terracotta roofs and eucalyptus trees nestled between the Blue Mountains – I feel like I’ve skipped into a movie and missed important segments of the plot. My last visit was no exception.

Last December and January, I spent Christmas in South America for the first time in my life – a joyous and tear-filled reunion after four years without contact due to interfering factors like the COVID-19 pandemic and academic chaos. During my stay, small details imposed themselves on me like spots of paint on an immaculate canvas, defying the memories engraved in my memory during our separation.

When did my cousin’s voice drop an octave? I look at him and still see a fresh newborn face in my mind, his little hands and shining eyes searching and searching. Yet he stands before me, speaking up in conversations about government leaders and mathematical equations.

How long did it take my abuelos to revamp the layout of their home? Tables and sofas are no longer in their place, indoor plants are gigantic and new paintings are taking place on the walls.

One sports a new hairstyle, while the other has moved to another apartment. The cousin I was born with has a boyfriend I’ve never met. My mother’s and my favorite ice cream shop no longer exists. Age has caught up with the beloved domestic dog, his tawny coat dotted with silver hairs and his eyes darkened with age.

The changes can be overwhelming. Each tugs at my chest as a constant reminder that thousands of miles and millions of minutes separate me from this place and the people. Unexpectedly, two homes, two countries, two families, two identities and two languages ​​often feel more alone than one.

How do we manage this divide?

After 20 years of elated salutes, painful goodbyes, and plane rides back and forth, a few things to remember have stood out through the tests of time:

Realizing that I’m not alone.

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Whenever my heart sinks, I think of my mother. At the age of 18, she traveled alone to the United States to pursue her university studies. With a family connection to Virginia, she navigated the uncertainty of a foreign land full of strange customs and a different culture completely alone — and never looked back.

Sometimes I overhear little moments after calls and FaceTimes with our family in Ecuador, tears glistening as they stare silently out the window. A story similar to that of countless brave immigrant parents in the United States, what is difficult for us is infinitely more difficult for our mothers and fathers who left behind everything familiar and loved to start a new life. . If she can be strong, so can I.

Communication.

When my mom moved to the US, she had to use a landline or maybe a flip phone with a hefty international charge to call home. However, thanks to modern technology, easy communication is available with apps like Whatsapp – the Hispanic holy grail, in other words.

Once I finally won the endless battle against meager iPhone storage and cleared enough clutter to download the app, the distance between Round Rock and Cuenca became much less daunting. All it takes is a simple text from my cousin or a grumpy GIF from my aunt and I feel their presence in the room, laughing beside me as I smile at my screen mountains and oceans in the distance.

First of all, all you need to remember is a plane ticket.

Although the miles that separate our family sometimes seem desolate, they are just miles. Planes, cars, trains, and ships have been designed to travel the vast expanses of our world, allowing us to visit who and what we love in distant lands and continents. When means permit, only a passport and a map stand between me and the house full of memories I left behind. After all, my grandparents don’t live on the moon or in North Korea – visits are perfectly doable, but not as frequent as I’d hope. No matter what, they will always be there, waiting with open arms.

With these three things in mind, the expansive fracture gradually dissipates. There may not be a perfect solution or happy ending, but it’s the little things that breathe hope into imperfect situations like this.

So yes, I’m jealous. But I’m also grateful to have such a loving family. I’m proud to call Cuenca my birthplace and my second home. I’m glad the plane tickets and videos provide a valuable connection. I can’t wait to see who my cousins ​​will become. I treasure the memories I have.

No number of miles and years can take that away.

Ana Sofia Sloane is a second-year political science student and opinion columnist for The Battalion.