It’s been several weeks, and it’s still dreamy here in Dream Town. And life is mostly normal. I’m working (the job is great), the boys are in school, we bought a car (a Honda Fit, which I love), and we have all our stuff from Cairo and College Town.
Giggle and Bug love the sidewalks, parks, backyard — all great, seemingly normal stuff we didn’t have in Egypt. We’ve been able to spend our weekends visiting local parks and natural areas. The green here is so refreshing after all that beige. And it’s been an absolute treat to have fall colors.
Mr. Four is not working for now, which has been a huge help in getting us settled. He brings the boys to school and picks them up in the afternoons, and he makes dinner most nights.
The conventional wisdom in the expat world is that repatriating is harder than expatriating. Moving overseas was pretty easy for us–well, at least as easy as that big of a schlep can be–in part because my employer does a really good job getting new folks settled into comfortable apartments. The hard part for us was figuring out how to get the kids outside playing.
But that’s been so easy here in Dream Town. And most everything about moving back has felt pretty easy. Maybe because it’s only been a few years since we moved. It feels, in a way, like we were in suspended animation in Cairo, with a different routine, no car, and a full-time housekeeper/nanny. Here we’re back to eating the same meals we used to make, and spending our weekends outside mucking about at the park or in the woods. And it feels great.
We really miss our friends, and it’s small consolation that many of them will be moving on from Cairo in the next year or two. But otherwise, I don’t miss Egypt.
Moving to Egypt was one of the best things I’ve ever done–and moving back has been even better.
We made it to Dream Town. The trip was relatively incident-free, but we were all pretty miserable by the end. We’re now crashed out in a comfy airport hotel, watching TV at 3am because we’re still on Cairo time (and by “we,” I mean my children; Mr. Four and I easily could have slept through the night).
Since I moved to Egypt, I have always loved coming back to the US. (Even London felt homey and familiar.) Here I savor all the little familiarities: familiar magazines in the rack, familiar brands on the store shelves, signs in English, plugs without adaptors, etc. I wonder how long the familiarity will be refreshing. When will it become simply normal?
My notion of home also has expanded. It’s no longer a house or a town or a state, but rather the entire US feels like home–even in this city we’ve hardly visited.
In a few hours we’re meeting a landlord at a potential rental. It’s a newish duplex/townhouse with a small yard in a racially integrated, gentrifying neighborhood. I hope we like it because the location is excellent, and the local school seems good too. Mr. Four and I would like to own our own home again, but we’ll be renting while we settle into Dream Town.
Once we find a place to rent, our next big task will be finding a new (to us) car. We sold our truck and car before we moved to Egypt, so we’ll rent a car for the next few days. As I scour CraigsList, I’m having the same problem as when I last bought a car: I want a family wagon in an SUV world.
A Honda or Toyota wagon would be perfect. But they have small SUVs instead, and I don’t want that. I had a Subaru and didn’t love it, and hate wasting gas mileage on all wheel drive. Minivans are too expensive. So what’s the best combination of reasonable gas mileage and some storage/cargo space?
This and other exciting adventures await.
Folks, we’re leaving Cairo. As in, forever. And we’re leaving next week. It’s been brewing for a while, and you, my poor readers, are the last to know. (Sorry about that.)
We’re not going back to our beloved College Town. We’re heading many states away, to Dream Town. It’s such a dream town that I can’t quite believe we’re actually moving there.
I have a new job, which I’ll start in late October. We’ve tentatively lined up a place to live (we’ll be renting for a while), and our stuff that’s been in storage for the past two years should soon be making its way to our new home. I hope to get Giggle enrolled in school late next week, and we still need to find a pre-K for Bug. Mr. Four, as when we arrived in Cairo, will be staying at home for a while, to help us settle in.
We are very sad to leave our friends, the boys’ schools, and our wonderful nanny. But we are excited to go home to the US, to have sidewalks and clean air and woods and rivers. We are hoping this is a very long-term move, like through Bug’s high school graduation.
So that’s the latest! More to come as we pack.
On the flight from New York to Cairo, Giggle, age 6, explained things this way to Bug, age 4: “Egypt is not our home, but it’s our country.”
I would probably have described it in the opposite way (Egypt isn’t our country, but it’s our home), but I was interested to hear how Giggle was sorting out this notion of having multiple homes and countries. After this summer, my boys have come to think of “home” as our family house in the mountains in the US, a house Mr. Four spent many years building, and in which he and I lived full-time for several years after. When we moved from that house to College Town, Mr. Four and I rented it out. It’s not set up as a vacation rental, which isn’t particularly lucrative (sadly), but means we can use it whenever we want, for as long as we want, and it’s already furnished. The boys hadn’t spent much time there until last summer. I think it was good for them to have the continuity of going back this summer. Giggle had such glee in his voice when he’d say, “Hey, I remember this place!” Until we’re back in the US permanently, I’m glad to give them some consistency in their understanding of home. And it’s a nice home–though the outside is my favorite part.
Giggle and Bug were pretty stunned to learn that Mr. Four built the house. More shocked, even, than when we arrived in the US and I get behind the wheel of a car (“You can drive, Mommy?”). A couple of times, in the middle of watching TV or hanging out, Bug called out, “Daddy, Daddy! Thank you building this house!”
This may well have been the best part of the summer for Mr. Four.
And what a great summer it was. We were away about six weeks, and we spent the first three visiting family and friends and driving around a lot. The boys (and Mister Puppy) did great with this, much to my surprise and delight.
In the mountains, we went tubing and rafting and fishing and in general spent a lot of time outside.
Giggle also got a new casterboard called a RipStik. Think of a skateboard, but complicated. So we went a lot to the local skate park, where Bug rode his bike and Giggle cruised around on his RipStik.
So while it’s nice to be home, we do miss our country.
My long-time readers may recall vague references to my flight from Cairo to JFK last summer, a flight so terrible I actually decided not to blog about so as not to think about it anymore.
Early on Friday morning (in the US; it was Friday afternoon in Cairo), after about 14 hours of traveling, I told the friendly, helpful flight attendant that I appreciated her friendliness and helpfulness (after last year, I always make a point of thanking good flight attendants). “It was my pleasure,” she said. “Your kids have been great. It’s always a pleasure to work with kids with good manners.”
That was nice, though I didn’t think much of it until we were leaving the plane (we were about the last out), when another filght attendant started gushing about Giggle. “He’s going to be famous someday,” he said. “He’s so smart and he is so well-mannered. American kids just don’t seem to have good manners, but he does.”
I looked around for Ashton Kutcher and the hidden cameras. Then I passed out from shock.
My kids were good on the plane, mostly because we left in the middle of the night and they slept much of the way, and because Mr. Four was with us this year, and because I prepared better plane activities for them.
Still, it’s nice to hear. I adore my kids, but they can be a little crazy at times. And after last year’s flight, which included perhaps the lowest moment of my life, when I cried while arguing with the flight attendant, while Bug cried and wept for me to read him a book, well, let me just say this: what a difference a year makes.
Mr. Puppy did surprisingly well too. He didn’t exactly enjoy the flight, but aside from a huge puddle of pee he left in JFK (which we cleaned up–and, really, where else was he supposed to go after flying for 13 hours?), he behaved perfectly. And he’s been his charming sweet since then as well.
We’re having a great visit with Mr. Four’s family. They are great with the kids, pretty low key but also interested in what they’re saying, and the kids have warmed up to them quickly. Because of a graduation party, we visited today with a bunch of Mr. Four’s old friends, and tomorrow we have a big family picnic at my brother-in-law’s house.
We also managed to squeeze in a visit to Old Navy and Target, to catch up on our big-box shopping.
Plus it’s been raining quite a bit lately, and we are surrounded by green: green grass, green hills, green trees. It’s gorgeous.
You might be able to tell from this post that my eyes are drooping. More later, when I can remember how to spell.
Since last September, Bug has had a little play chant: “I’m going to the mountains, I’m going to the mountains.”
Tonight, we finally are. (Sorta.)
We leave in a few hours for the airport, and we’ll fly into Mr. Four’s hometown, where we’ll visit with his family. It will be Giggle’s first time meeting Grandpop, Uncle D, Aunt C, and some cousins. Bug has met them all but doesn’t remember everyone. They are excited for that, and also for the new sandals that are waiting at Grandpop’s house.
After a few days with Mr. Four’s family, we’ll head towards our most recent home state, which we’ll crisscross to visit my dad, College Town, and our house in the mountains.
Once again my internet access will be inconsistent, but I will have more time. Your guess is as good as mine as to how much I’ll be blogging.
In any case, tonight, think of us as we soar over the Mediterranean, Europe (hello R!), and the Atlantic Ocean.
My dad emailed the other day and speculated that because I hadn’t blogged in a while, I must be busy. This is only partly true. I’m not especially busier than usual, but I do Twitter a lot, which apparently satisfies many of my communication needs.
I also get impatient uploading photos to both Facebook and Flickr (where I host photos for this blog), with my slow internet, so sometimes I stop after Facebook. And I always feel I owe you all some photos, from Ethiopia and now from our recent beach trip, which means sometimes I don’t blog rather than blog without photos (silly I know).
I also lost some steam last fall, when some important people in life got pretty angry with me over some stuff they had read on my blog (don’t bother looking for it; it won’t be obvious). Even though I plunged into NaBloPoMo, I felt a bit gun shy. I started a blog to keep folks up-to-date on our life in Egypt, but it also means that people don’t necessarily have to be in touch with me directly to know what’s going on. And this was bad last fall.
And, frankly, now that we’re pretty settled, both in Egypt and with our kids, there’s a lot less to say. Most of the time.
Explanations aside, here’s what’s going on.
Our puppy is growing and doing really well. We went back to visit his mother a few weeks ago, and I was surprised that he’s almost as big as she is. He now weighs in at a robust eight pounds (or so). Earlier this week, we met his father, and Mister Puppy looks just like his Jack Russell terrier dad except Mister Puppy’s coloring is a bit lighter. He’s sweet, healthy, fun, and pretty easy. Bug and Giggle adore him. Sometimes too much. For example, right now, Giggle is hugging Mister Puppy and “helping” him dance.
It’s beach weather in Egypt, and the boys and I spent Easter Sunday at Ain Soukhna with some good friends (Mr. Four had to work). Bug got stung by a jellyfish. He screamed for probably 20 minutes or more. He appears to have gained a lifelong hatred of jellyfish.
Over the long weekend of Coptic Easter (a week after the western Easter), we went with some other friends to a beach near Ras Sudr, Egypt. We brought Mister Puppy. Turns out that Mister Puppy loves playing in the sand as much as Bug and Giggle do.
In other news: we have now booked our plane tickets for our home leave to the US this summer. We’ll be visiting Mr. Four’s family in his hometown, plus dashing all over our home state, to College Town, the beach, and the mountains. Mister Puppy will be joining us.
Booking those tickets meant accepting we’ll be back in Egypt a third year. Which is good, mostly, but a bit disappointing given that this spring it looked like we might have the opportunity to move this summer either to southern Africa or the Caribbean–neither panned out. Which is all for the best, but, you know.
Coming up: Pigs! Swine flu! Windsurfing!
I could say it was because I read in the book Third Culture Kids that it’s important for kids who live overseas to have a home base to return to each summer. But it’s also in part because I have been feeling homesick. Also, the boys are growing out of their clothes. And, Tanzania and Kenya are looking to be more expensive than putzing around in the US.
Most importantly, the boys have been asking to go to the US. Giggle talks about visiting “America” and Bug really wants to go to the mountains. Sometimes he’s so distraught that we’re not leaving right away that we have to talk about what we’ll pack for our trip and what we’ll do once we get there (pick blackberries, play with the neighbor’s dog, go tubing).
The slightly troublesome logistics include Mr. Four’s vacation time, which is less than mine, which means we either spend more time in Cairo as a family, or I figure out something to do with the boys for about a week or two. I’ve been daydreaming about a European layover, which would be really expensive, which is why it’ll probably remain a daydream. But Mr. Four and I want the boys out of the city if we can afford it, since the air here is just so awful. Their little lungs need the break. And I really want to maximize my time away from Cairo, which helps me appreciate it all the more once I get back.
This is definitely a first-world problem however.
Last year at this time I was having another problem of the privileged: I was pretty unhappy in Cairo. I can’t pinpoint exactly what’s changed, except I’m pretty sure it’s me and not this place, but this spring I’m doing okay.
And, now, I need to get back to my daydreams. Prague, anyone?
My friend Jenni just wrote a nice post about her favorite moments from the past year, and I’m inspired to do the same.
Bug is napping, but I’m going to guess his favorite moment (the one that would come to mind, anyway) was opening the Batman motorcycle he asked about all fall and got from Santa for Christmas.
Giggle’s favorite moment from 2008:
- Seeing Santa when he woke up on Christmas morning (he’s been talking about this for a week, and we haven’t questioned him further on the matter)
Mr. Four’s favorites:
- Boating with the boys in the mountains this summer
- Snorkeling with the boys in Dahab
My favorites (in chronological order):
Spring, in Egypt (mostly)
- When we first joined our club last January, sitting outside in the evening, drinking tea or a beer, while the boys played on the playground, and feeling like I had a backyard again
- Discovering Fagnoon
- Our spring trip to Dahab, an amazing vacation that managed to include both lots of fun for the boys and lots of relaxation for Mr. Four and me
- My trip to gorgeous Croatia: walking the streets of old Dubrovnik and visiting with old friends
- A great visit from my cousin K in June
- Sweet little Puppy Four
In the US this summer
- My first morning back in College Town in June, listening to NPR, reading the New York Times (in print!), and drinking tea while the boys played
- Playing baseball with my dad, Bug, and Giggle in June
- Swimming at the lake near College Town
- The boys running hysterically into the house this summer to report “ghosts” outside, which were really fireflies
- Later on, watching and catching fireflies with the boys, in College Town and the mountains
- Eating my favorite cereal
- Laughing hysterically while tubing with Mr. Four, Giggle, and Bug in July
- My kids discovering the laundry chute at my mom’s house
Fall, back in Egypt (mostly)
- The Africa Reading Challenge
- Giggle’s school
- A few hours at Hamley’s toy store in London
- Spamalot (also in London)
- Snorkeling with the boys in Dahab
- Giggle deciding it was time to re-learn Amharic
- Bug and Giggle talking to my dad and stepmom on Thanksgiving
- Ethiopia: time with Bug, the rock hewn churches, hippos, and Bug learning how cool it is to be Ethiopian
- A wonderful Christmas day, including a nice chat with my mom
- Listening to my nephew play his new accordion via Skype
Here are some things I am missing:
- Fall colors
- Jumping into piles of leaves with my kids
- The start of college basketball season
- Chai tea
- My dad
- Trail running
- Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert
- Going to movies
- Bike rides
- My US friends
- The mountains
- Ordering stuff online
- Mexican food
Coming up tomorrow: what I don’t miss! Stay tuned…