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The last time we stayed in Aruba all winter, we still lived in Annapolis. I remember coming home; we arrived in Washington DC and got on the airport shuttle. We were almost the last stop, it was rush hour, so we spent about an hour driving through Washington to nearby hotels before heading out Highway 50 eastbound, a sort of "welcome home" tour. The afternoon was overcast and there was dirty lingering snow on the ground. More than anything, after months of brilliant sunshine and bright tropical colors, the contrast to what we had seen for the last months struck me. Everything was gray -- the sky, the buildings, the clothing people wore. People's faces, too. Everyone had drab expressions and looked distracted and harried. Maybe I had to get away from it for a while to see it. I wondered if this was the way I looked, too, when I worked in DC. Probably. I remembered donating my business clothing when I retired, packing away piles of suits and slacks in drab, "sad" colors like brown and navy and black and gray, and happily posting that now that I was retired I could wear orange, and turquoise ... together.
Ninety days out of country has always been just about my limit, I have known ever since a summer in the Middle East my sophomore year in college, and reconfirmed in the Bahamas our first year of cruising (look at posts from the winter of 2009-2010 on this blog). Then culture shock kicks in and I want to go home. But this drive through gray DC was the first time I'd ever had culture shock in reverse.
I still remembered, and dreaded, that weird letdown feeling as our vacation this year drew to a close. At least we were coming back to Florida instead of Washington, DC, it was chilly but not cold, and the sun was shining. Got back to St Augustine and the warm welcomes from our friends ... and a crazy-busy social schedule. We were quickly back to 5 days/week volunteering at the Galeon and the Castillo, and a host of parties and happy hours celebrating milestones in friends lives -- new house, birthday -- and just the flat out fun of being together. If anything, it was too busy ... but at least this time, it wasn't gray!