We have arrived in America! Actually, we have been here for a couple months now, so I will backtrack a bit…
During the last few weeks in China before our trip home, I was anxiously packing, organizing, cleaning and making many, many lists. We had to pay all our fees and rents up front for the following four months, take inventory of things we have in China and what we need to buy in America, say goodbye to all our Banna friends and and prepare our home for our long absence. Instead of leaving our home vacant for four months, we decided to ask a Chinese friend to live in our house while we were away. Our biggest fear was that a water pipe would burst and flood the apartment (which happens quite often), so we thought it would be best to have someone live there who can keep an eye on things. Since we live in a tropical environment, another big problem with leaving a house empty for a long time is mold. Having a house guest there will hopefully keep the mold at a minimum simply by opening and closing windows and turning on the air conditioners. I am still a little nervous about the condition of our apartment when we return. I am the kind of person who likes to have everything in its place, so it will be a real stretch for me to return to our apartment and not find things how I left them.
The flight to America was surprisingly easy. We now have to buy a seat for each of us, so not having children sitting in our laps makes a huge difference. Our flight schedule was set up perfectly, allowing us to have an overnight rest in a hotel before our long international flight. Not to mention, I now take medicine to calm my flight anxiety which allows me to sleep, watch movies, and function like a normal human being on flights.
Getting Our Feet Wet
Our first week or so in America is always a little rough. Jet lag with two little kids is truly awful. This time Claire was awake from 1:00am-3:00am every night which made our jet lag even worse because we were unable to fall back asleep after taking care of her. As a result, the first week felt like we were swimming in a fog, which didn’t make adjusting to American life any easier. Despite our best efforts to “play it cool” and “act normal”, there is always a learning curve at the beginning. Here are a few of the the things each of us struggled with this time around:
- Not knowing how to use the new chip technology at the store
- Running errands around town only to find that every store I went to had moved to a different location
- Being asked by friends/family if my kids like certain foods and not knowing how to respond because they have never actually eaten that particular food before
- Frequently using his horn while passing other drivers, going through an intersection, being approached by another driver on a side street, etc. (which is good driving etiquette in China, but makes Americans just plain angry)
- Arriving 30 minutes late to church not realizing they had changed the service times
- Answering her grandparents house phone using the standard Chinese greeting (which, come to find out, is a good way to get soliciters to hang up)
- Peeing outside in the grass a handful of times when her parents aren’t watching (but neighbors are)
- Getting mad at TV commercials for coming on during her shows (we only watch DVDs in China)
- Being scared of everything from garage doors to squirrels
What Do You Do All Day?
People often ask us how we spend our days while we are in America. Good Question! Obviously, we do build in a good amount of time for relaxation and play. This is sorely needed due to the fact that overseas living is difficult and there are long periods without any breaks. It is important for us to have time here to decompress and reconnect with friends and family. Some of our fun activities have included taking the kids to go swimming, going to the lake, attending cake-decorating classes, spending time with extended family, going to kids’ swimming lessons and gymnastics lessons, going to the movies, and much more. However, our time home is not all fun and games. For example, I have spent many hours so far buying all the clothes and supplies that we need to take back with us. We also have to catch up on things like doctor’s appointments, renewing passports, attending company trainings and taking care of any personal business that needs to be handled State-side. And more importantly, we spend a lot of time seeing friends who allow us to do what we do in China. This part alone requires a couple months of meeting people for meals every day and going on road trips to visit people on the weekends. Our time in the States is always a delicate balance of work and rest.
On a final note, here are some of the memories we have made so far…