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 Fours have a new tradition-in-the-making, inspired by the Obama family.
A few weeks ago, listening to Slate’s Political Gabfest podcast, I learned that each night the Obamas individually share a rose, something good, and a thorn, something difficult, from their day. (For more information, the Washington Post mentioned it here.)
Mr. Four, Bug, Giggle, and I have dinner together at home usually at least four nights a week, and often more (though sometimes we eat dinner at our club on the weekends). But the boys often acted silly through much of dinner, and while I tried to engage the boys about their day at school, I wasn’t always successful.
But now we’ve started our own roses and thorns, and it’s going great. In fact, the boys remember it at dinner before I do. Bug even wanted to talk roses and thorns at breakfast this morning.
It’s a great way to have some structured conversation, and I’m learning a lot more about what the boys are up to at school. Thorns often focus on difficulty with a friend. (In Bug’s renditions, usually his entire school is in time out except for him and his best buddy B.)
Mr. Four and I usually talk about work stuff, and I think this could be a good way for the boys to learn more about adult life.
And, I realized as I writing this, the boys’ dinner table behavior is much better now that they have something to talk about and share.
I’ve been wanting us to have some family traditions, and so far this is a great one.
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
That’s what the boys say whenever they see their traditional Ethiopian outfits or photos of themselves wearing traditional Ethiopian outfits, which they wore to school one day last week in honor of the Ethiopian millennium.
Speaking of Ethiopia… we’ve been eating lots of Ethiopian food lately, at least two or three times a week, so much that Mr. Four and I each noticed a fingernail with semi-permanent yellow stains (from the curry powder, I guess).
Don’t worry: we’re still fitting in the ocassional Egyptian meal as well.
After work this evening, I innocently stopped into a market to look for some cold water before the taxi ride home. The back corner beckoned, and, lo and behold: beer! I nearly fainted from the sight of it. And next to the beer? Shelves of liquor!
We’ve had not a drop since the night before we left the US. We haven’t sought it out, because (I’ll confess), we’re both beer snobs of a sort and we’ve been told that the beer here is either Bud or Bud-like. And we’ve been warned off the liquor as well (apparently there have been deaths from locally made liquor, and not from over-consumption).
My first thought when I saw the beer was, “Ohmygawd! Am I allowed to buy that?” And then I remembered I was in Egypt not Saudi Arabia or Swain County. (Little joke for you BC folks.)
And then I remembered another important bit of advice I was recently given: “If you see it, buy it.” Especially with Ramadan coming, it’s going to get very difficult to find any alcohol around.
And never has a beer looked so tempting as those Heinekens. I bought two. I had mine before dinner, and Mr. Four enjoyed his with pizza. Yum. I also bought a bottle of gin. If it kills us, at least we’ll die happy.
Much to my surprise, both Bug and Giggle are now enrolled in school. And enjoying it immensely.
Giggle started on Sunday. Despite his enthusiasm for the concept of school, he freaked out when he realized Mommy wouldn’t be at school with him. Much to my horror, I realized that as far as he was concerned, we were abandoning him all over again. So I stayed with him there, but in a different room, for about an hour (while he played on the computer and actually had fun), and then we went home.
On Monday, Mr. Four took Giggle to school while Bug stayed home with me. Last year, when Bug started daycare, he did much better when Mr. Four dropped him off, so we decided to try this approach with Giggle. Who then proceeded to scream bloddy murder when Mr. Four left. Mr. Four returned an hour or two later to a happy little boy who, it turned out, had calmed down after about a minute.
Tuesday went off without a hitch, and Giggle came home full of excitement about his day. Then Bug announced he wanted to go to school. We hemmed and hawed. After all, one of the big appeals of this move was that Mr. Four could stay home with the kids. Over the summer, it became clear that Giggle wanted and needed school, and so we thought it’d be just Bug at home full-time. But here in Cairo, it’s hard to find parks and other local outdoor spaces for kids. Plus the other kids are at school already.
So Mr. Four brought both boys on Wednesday. And they were both fine. I was sure Bug was going to have a hard time with a new space and new teachers, but it seemed Giggle’s presence was all he needed.
Mr. Four and I went off and did our errands and came back later to pick up two very happy boys. Bug took a good long nap in the afternoon, and Giggle, who doesn’t usually nap, crashed out on the floor in the living room.
They’re both at school again today.
The regular school day goes to 1pm, and there’s an optional extended day til 3pm. For now, we’re going to have Giggle go every day til 1pm, and Bug will go three days a week til 1pm. Then they’ll nap at home (if Giggle continues to nap, which it seems he might since he’s actually getting tired at school).
The big surprises were Giggle’s initial reluctance (though in retrospect it makes perfect sense-he had to learn we’d always come back for him) and Bug’s instant comfort in his new school. My boys amaze me–I was so sure they’d be home with Mr. Four, slowly transitioning to life here in Cairo, and here they are, already settled into school.
I’m really excited that the school provides Arabic lessons. So we’ll all be taking Arabic this year. Any guesses on who learns the fastest?