After completing our first year abroad, we were not quite sure what to expect when we got "home." One of our expat friends put it quite well when he told us that living in America would come back to you as soon as you got off the plane, and he was right. The customs, driving, shopping, tipping, everything was immediate. A few things had changed, but not so much that it made home feel anything less than home.
We have managed to keep ourselves very busy since we've been here, maybe a little too busy if you ask me. We've been here a bit over a week and have already taken the boys to a Rockies game, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, and the North Pole. We've already gone hiking on our favorite trail in Palmer Park. We rode the Royal Gorge Railroad today. And we have been enjoying spending time with family and friends.
Ridiculously long layover in Narita, Japan? No problem! You can easily leave the airport and explore the town of Narita. As long as you have at least 6 hours to kill. We got into NRT at 7:30 local time and weren't scheduled to leave again until 5:00 pm. (Our flight ended up being delayed a couple hours, but that's just one of the hazards of flying.) I think we could have made it into downtown Tokyo in that time, but with two little ones, I didn't want to push our luck.
Leaving the airport was a little nerve-racking, but it turned out to be a great experience and a mini-vacation within our intense 26 hours of travel.
Our family moved to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in early July 2013, and in that time, we have learned a variety of lessons about what it means to live in another culture.
1. Just because it doesn’t make sense doesn’t mean that it won’t make sense.
One of our students said, “If it fully starts to make sense, you have been here (in Vietnam) too long.”
There are plenty of things that still leave us puzzled. Many times workers prefer not to wear shoes when completing tasks on a ladder, or balancing on wires. This preference can be rationalized, but it is still odd to see.
After touching down in HCMC in July 2013, we were driven by the school van to our temporary home in an apartment facing the river near the school. The traffic on the way to the apartment was traveling every which way, with motorbikes going against the flow, vehicles ignoring signals and what seemed to be an overall disregard for “sensible” traffic flow.
The end of the school year is always crazy for teachers, and this year has seemed more eventful than usual. I guess that's just part of the International School scene. The craziness is amplified by the fact that we are going on a huge overseas trip in less than a week. We are headed to the States for the summer to visit our families and friends which is very exciting. I can't wait to go "home," but then I realize I have 26 hours worth of travel time to get there. With a 5 year old and 2 year old.
And once we are home, the craziness isn't going to stop. There are so many people to see, and so much shopping to do. There's a trip to Wisconsin planned for the whole family, and Derek and I have to go to NY for a week for some professional development.
To keep the dudes happy on the plane, I am packing:
Oh. And iPads. Loaded with new apps. I'm hoping they spend a lot of the time sleeping, but on long trips like this, you just never know. Owen did great last time, but Oliver struggled a little. He's a year older now, so it should be better. Plus he's gotten some flying experience. I've heard 1 to 2 is the most difficult, so here's hoping he'll do better this time!
The first thing we want to do when we get home is go to Chipotle. You know, after we've hugged everyone and loaded all our luggage into the multiple cars coming to retrieve us from the airport. (And maybe shed a few tears.) We have been craving Chipotle for almost a year now...
After that, we'll play it by ear. The boys will either crash or be wired, so we'll let them dictate our next moves. It'll be weird for them having to be buckled into a car seat. Owen remembers, but Oliver is going to be annoyed.
I've also spent quite a bit of time putting together a shopping list for when we are home. New clothing, shoes, first aide items, and things we simply cannot find in Vietnam. We have been adding things to this list for months now.
It's hard to predict how a trip like this is going to go with two little ones. One of the things I've learned from being in Vietnam this past year is to go with the flow more. A lot more. It's been a difficult lesson for me to learn.
Derek surprised us last night with an impromptu viewing of a water puppet show. These shows are a traditional form of art in Vietnam but have become a huge tourist attraction. I have been wanting to go all year, so I am glad Derek made it happen.
Upon recommendation from a student, Derek made reservations at the Golden Dragon Theatre in District 1. The theatre was easy for the cab to locate and the grounds were well kept. We made it just in time for the performance to begin which was great because the boys didn't have time to get bored. We went to the 6:30 showing, and the performance was just under an hour long. They do three showing every night. The audience was mostly tour groups but it wasn't overly crowded.
(Please excuse the quality of the photos. The conditions were poor and we only brought our phones. I guess you'll have to come visit us and go to the real deal if you want to see it better!)