Fun fact: Tacoma’s record high temperature in January is 66 degrees.

Part of me wishes I could have flown back to Washington immediately after returning to the United States from studying abroad on the island of South Caicos.  Think of the culture shock of Tacoma versus a fishing village in the Caribbean – cloudy skies, elevation changes greater than twenty feet, people (with working cars, no less), buildings taller than two stories.

When I was flying from Providenciales to South Caicos last October (a grand total of thirteen minutes and ten seconds from takeoff to touchdown), I watched the ocean vary in shades of turquoise and the spits of white sand illuminate the water from beneath.  When my flight from Providenciales was landing in Charlotte, NC in December, I (along with my study abroad classmates who were on the same flight) was glued to the window, marveling at all of the colorful electric lights marking the runways.  When I was landing at Sea/Tac last week, I watched the imperturbable snowy slopes of Mt. Rainier as the plane descended through the steely clouds.  It’s been a rather varied month and a half, location and climate-wise.

But in my first week back in Tacoma, I have realized two things: first, that the best way to reacclimatize to the Washington weather is to lose your jacket, and second, that if you struggle with seasonal affective disorder, the way to cope is to move to an off-campus house with a dimly-lit bedroom that forces you to rely almost entirely on your happy lamp.   That being said, though, I’ve always found Tacoma’s grey skies to be rather nice – like a calm grey blanket hiding the Pacific Northwest’s beauty and character from the rest of the country.  But I have to say, seeing the gleaming pink queen conch shell (Strombus gigas) on my windowsill juxtaposed against the evergreens and mist outside is still just a bit startling.