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.
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.
Life is back to normal for the Four Family. The boys have been in school for about two weeks, and Mr. Four and I have both been back to work for a few weeks longer than that.
Giggle is now in first grade, which turns out to be very serious compared to kindergarten. There’s more homework and more responsibility. He was a bit overwhelmed at first, but now is settling in nicely. Today, after he finished his homework, he announced, “This homework was fun!” And then he added, “I hate homework.”
Bug is glad to be back with his best buddy, B, at school. B’s new nanny is friends with our nanny/housekeeper, so Bug has been spending a lot more time with his best buddy after school, which is great, because they have more fun and behave better when they’re together.
We bought skateboards for both boys recently. An expat acquaintance here commented he’d be too scared to let his kids get on skateboards. I speculated to Mr. Four that perhaps because in our world it’s normal to put your three year old in kayak, it’s not so strange to put your four year old on a skateboard–with helmet securely fastened, of course.
How about you? What outside toys do your kids have?
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.
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 drink a lot of tea, usually black tea with milk, and Bug and Giggle always want sips. They often request and make their own versions, anything from warm water with honey to milk and sugar and probably a dozen other concoctions they have neglected to share with us.
When Bug and I were in Ethiopia in December, we’d eat breakfast each day at the hotel, usually sharing a meal. Each morning I’d order tea, which came with lots of sugar and rarely milk. Even with milk, it still needed some sugar. Not surprisingly, Bug really liked it. So he wanted his own. I eventually obliged. He enjoyed the ritual of adding the sugar and stirring the tea as much as actually drinking it: he’d usually stop after a few sips and I’d finish his tea and mine.
At lunch I’d often order a coke, and soon Bug decided he wanted a soda as well. I’m not a big fan of giving my kids soda, but it was a special trip, we were pretty active, and I didn’t want to keep fighting him… so I gave in. As parents, Mr. Four is usually a bit stricter than I am, but I tend to be more concerned about their nutrition, so I was a bit chagrined to think I’d get home with a kid demanding tea for breakfast and Fanta for lunch.
But you know what? It didn’t happen. At all. Bug hasn’t even asked. I suspect he returned to his regularly routines so quickly he forgot about the good life of tea and soda.
I haven’t blogged much about Ethiopia, but I will do more eventually. In the meantime, some photos.
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?
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.
The boys had school today, and Mr. Four was at work. Like most other US federal holidays, it’s a regular work day in Egypt. I had off, but only because it’s the eastern Christian Epiphany, called Timket in Ethiopia (where it’s one of the most important holidays of the year).
But I didn’t want to let the day go by without talking about Martin Luther King. This is a tough one because so few people are talking about it here, and because it’s all very complicated. Giggle is a smart kid, but I think his language comprehension isn’t as strong when we wander into new topics.
In any case, Giggle and I chatted a bit about Dr. King (“he’s a doctor and a king?” he asked when I first raised the issue). When I said that in America, the people with white skin weren’t very nice to the people with brown skin, he said, “I know, I know, you told me!” But we talked about this a bit more, because he’s getting older and can understand some of this stuff better. Bug was still sleeping.
Then we turned to YouTube, and we watched Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech. I think it’s really good for my boys to see people of color, and especially men of color, and especially black and African-American men, in positions of leadership. Bug joined us, and they were both impressed by the massive crowds and by the people (they noticed there were people with white skin and people with brown skin). And they really like the rhythm of the speech as well (who wouldn’t?).
Giggle also wondered why there wasn’t more color on the screen. So we had a mini technology lesson as well.
We talked about how in America today, many people dedicated the day to service and to helping others. Giggle said, “Hey, we do that!” and reminded me of some ways we’ve given to others here in Egypt.
I do wish Giggle’s school would discuss Dr. King. They go crazy over Halloween, Thanksgiving, Ramadan, Christmas–every holiday in the book, it seems, except this one.