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To get to this story, I have to go back a few years first.

I'm an immigrant from El Salvador. I came to the U.S. as a teenager in 1994, and never went back. I was in my 30s when I decided it was finally time to visit the grandmother I'd been missing for so long. I started to save and plan. Then she died.

It took several years before I finally took my first trip back in November of 2019. I spent the time vacationing on the coast. I avoided my grandmother's house, my friends, and my family. I wasn't ready. But I decided that for my 40th birthday, in 2020, I'd return for a longer stay and visit my childhood home and all the friends and family left behind.

Then there was a pandemic.

The trip was cancelled, but it was the least of that year's problems. I lost my job and went back to school to start a new career. Our dog got cancer and died. My partner had a friend in El Salvador who died of COVID. I can never reschedule that same trip. Too much has changed.

I'm planning to return this summer. This time with a firmer grasp on life's impermanence. I want to visit the white sand beaches at Playa Mango before it gets turned into a "surf city" tourist trap. I want to visit all the important cultural landmarks, especially those from which I can learn about my ancestors. More importantly, I will not avoid friends and family. On the contrary, I want to cherish the time I will have with them as if the next day isn't guaranteed. I plan to take dozens of photographs, portraits of everyone I see, I want to write down their stories in my journal, I want to record every visit, every meal, every experience possible in my journal. I plan to say "see you later," but not leave anything unsaid. Just in case.

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This item was submitted on February 2, 2023 by Rebecca Joyce using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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