Saturday, July 17, 2010

Heading Back & Looking Forward

As many of you know, we have been back in Iowa on furlough for the past 3 ½ weeks. It has been a wonderful time of rest, refueling, reflection, and, yes, lots of running. We are at the mid-point of our trip here, and many people have been asking what it’s like to be here, how we are adjusting to the re-entry, and are there things we find overwhelming. I will do my best to answer the questions and let you in on some of the things we are thinking about for the future. Because of the amount of information (and my lack of brain power and energy), there will be a few “installments” over the next week…

The Long Road Home…

We had a really fun travelling experience coming home (do you sense my sarcasm?). Because of a mistake I made in booking our flights out of Pignon, we ended up travelling to Santiago, Dominican Republic, to catch a flight to Orlando, Florida. A trip to Santiago involves three hours on terrible roads, a border crossing with a price tag, and another three or so hours to the city from there. Santiago brought us our first “Americanization” in the form of McDonald’s, which the kids were ready for.

We stayed overnight in a hotel with hot water, air conditioning, and satellite TV. Ah, the good things. Our flight left the next morning for Miami, and that is where things got interesting. As we arrived, it was raining, and shortly after lightning shut down the tarmac and, unfortunately for us, the baggage claim as well. We had a short amount of time to get our bags, get through customs and security, and find our next flight to Orlando. An hour and a half later, we had our bags but had missed our flight.

After a short wait in line we got on the next flight to Orlando, rushed through customs and security, and made it to the gate only to be seated on the plane, then grounded due to lightning for another couple of hours. The funniest part of it is that we had a two hour delay for a 40 minute flight! And then, you guessed it, we landed and had to wait another 45 minutes to de-plane because the storm had followed us! But, we made it to Orlando, albeit about five hours later than planned.

In another one of my brilliant moves, I had booked us out of Orlando on a 630 flight the next morning. What can I say, we were anxious to get into Des Moines, scheduled at 1030, and the tickets were much cheaper than a later time. Needless to say, we won’t be using those guidelines for future travel. Getting up with two kids at 400 in the morning after two icky days of travel already was not fun, but the kids were actually quite good-- it was the parents who were losing it.

I was sure that the flight from Orlando to Des Moines would go much more smoothly and was looking forward to being back early enough for a good lunch and a good nap. We got to Memphis with no problems; then I made the mistake of watching the weather long enough to see there was a storm moving in from Nebraska. I wasn’t too concerned; we could surely beat it there. Well, the pilot certainly tried! I kid you not, we were making our descent into the Des Moines airport with landing gear down when we hit some major turbulence and had to abort the landing and re-route to Cedar Rapids.

It was like sitting by the tree on Christmas morning having your mom say, “Not yet!” Will and Natalie both had been having a great time “riding” the turbulence coaster, giggling and shouting, “Woo-hoo!” while others were terrified. Then Will said, “Uh, what are we doing? He just pulled up!” No more woo-hoo. We weren’t going to land in Des Moines...yet. Two hours later, after a brief stop-over in Cedar Rapids, we finally made our destination. And I think I am going to officially be fired as the family travel agent!

When we arrived, it was bittersweet and emotional for grandparents, aunt, uncle, cousins and kids. I, on the other hand, was just so stinkin’ happy to be on the ground, knowing I wouldn’t need to hassle with the airport again for another seven weeks, that I nearly cried for joy!

Jared’s mom arranged for us to stay in an apartment in Sully while at home, and it was totally set up when we arrived. I can’t say enough how much we appreciate and love our families! When we got here, the apartment was fully furnished, including a king size bed (made in heaven, I am sure!), a hide-a-bed for the kids, TV with DVD player and cable, cupboards and drawers stocked with everything we would need, and a refrigerator full of food! The best part was the dairy! I think Natalie and I have eaten yogurt just about every day here, and I know we are going through milk and cheese like crazy.

As I took a hot shower that night, I cried. Once again I was humbled.

How Does Home Feel?

I think the question asked most is, “What does it feel like to be back home?” Well, honestly it has been an easier transition than I thought it would be. I remember back to the first trip Jared and I took in June of 2007, and it was very overwhelming to go from a country where we have it all to a country with so little and back again. It took weeks for me to be able to walk into Wal-mart and not want to cry because I felt so guilty having so many choices, not to mention the means to buy things.

This time it has been different in that I have come to realize how wonderful this country is because of those choices. Sometimes it is a little much and, yes, sometimes silly when you have to decide if you want anti-frizz, curl-defining, straightening, moisturizing, clarifying, or color-shielding shampoo, but you aren’t stuck with using a bar of soap either. I guess the challenge, not surprising, is finding the balance.

And with that I’ll leave you for now. Stay tuned for Part 2…

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