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South American Dreams

I have an itch. 

 

 

And before you hand me the cortizone, I think I need something more powerful than a $3 tube of anti-itch cream (but thanks for the thought). 

 

 

I want to travel.

 

 

I want to feel completely out of my element.  I want my foundation to crumble away, so that I can build a new one in its place.  I want to feel lost and alien, I want to taste strange foods and learn new languages.  I want to make friends with people I’d never even think to speak to at home.

 

 

I want to grow.

 

 

Herein, the Ecuador dream came forth. 

 

 

In August, I will leave everything that I’ve come to know and love for Quito, Ecuador – a place I plan to know and love.  I will live there for four months, volunteering with street children and travelling when I have the time.  I am going alone.

 

 

And I could not be more frightened – and euphoric!  In my ongoing search for my own definition of stability, I can’t think of a better way to find it than to simply take it away.

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 They came from some ocean in Sweden.  The were red and chewy.  They were Swedish Fish, and as a young teenager, I was obsessed with them.  

Aside from Mountain Dew Code Red, Swedish Fish were the staple item in my sweet stash as a kid.  Remember the days when you’d keep a shoebox under your bed full of taboo items your parents wouldn’t let you touch with a ten foot pole?  The days when such unmentionable items included a Metallica CD, a few Pixie Sticks, and perhaps an R-rated movie or two?   Those were the days. 

My obsession with these little bottom-dwellers, I cannot quite explain.  I can say that, with one taste of their sweet, crimson awesomeness, I am instantly transported to another time and place.  A time when I only stressed about boyfriends and homework, and when a cool breeze and a sunset were all I needed to cure a wave of melancholy. 

Just to give a little background (because I love my homework), Swedish fish did originate in Sweden, although in their native country they are referred to as “pastellfiskar”, literally meaning “pastel colored fish”.  They were first introduced into the American market in the 1960s and garnered popularity quickly from there (because who could resist a candy imitation of a slimy, scale-laden fish?) Initially, the fish came in only one flavor: red.  To this day, the flavor has not been identified by the company, which incidentally, reminds me of the two Nyquil flavors: Red and Green.  No need to muddy the waters by assigning the flavor a corresponding fruit, of course.  That would make things too complicated. 

As the years went by, a variety of colors and flavors were introduced, including the ever illusive black Swedish fish – rumored to be a “salted herring” flavor.  Yum.  To make things even better, the fish get their gummy qualities from carnauba wax instead of the standard gelatin, which makes them vegetarian.  Or pescetarian.  

A fish flavored, fish shaped candy. Logic. Sweet.

It seems to me that the fish have lost some popularity over the past decade.  But I know that, much like the Tootsie Roll, they will never fade completely.  It is the generation of children born in the 70’s and 80’s whose nostalgia will keep their legend alive.

I love so dearly the fact that these goodies can bring me straight back to childhood.  It’s like being in possession of my very own – and very inexpensive – time-machine (patent pending).  I’ve always been a fan of nostalgia, whether I’m recalling the charming taste of a favorite confection, or the flutter of a first kiss.  I enjoy reflecting on my past, and often romanticize it (which is really just a gentle way of saying that I rewrite my own history). As much as one Swedish Fish can affect me, any familiar smell, taste or scene can instantly make me long for my past.  This is one of the great pleasures of life, after all!  A memory long lost can reappear, crisper and more alive than ever, just by a simple trip of the senses.  Being in touch with such a gift and valuing the journey taken in life is important, as it is the only foundation to stand on.  Of course, being that nostalgia is a double-edged sword, dwelling too much on the past can cause that same foundation to crumble. 

 So, my point is simply this:  While the past is important, it shouldn’t carry so much weight that it keeps one from stepping forward.  I’ll think of my past as an encyclopedia that I can refer to when I’m in doubt about my next move, but when I’m done, I’ll leave it on the shelf.  Too often I’m digging in my past, or obsessing about the future, and I forget to enjoy myself in the here and now.  So, as I keep searching for life’s stability, I’ll grab a handful of Swedish Fish and think of my teenage years.  Then I’ll thank God that I am 24.

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