gearing up for our trip back to the states is such a tiring process of lists and packing and putting things in storage and thinking way too far into the future that it hurts. it's not easy and i try not to belly-ache about it because we are so happy to do it. we get to return. it's worth it. but it's hard work.
i read this article recently from another Middle Eastern expat who writes out her five things--what they look forward to when they return home. it got me thinking about my list:
1. after growing accustomed to reckless driving daily and sitting in the longest traffic jams imaginable, driving anywhere in the states will be a piece of cake. i do look forward to wide open driving spaces (road trips!). i will miss filling up my tank for under 15 dollars though. also, i look forward to not being in a car. i just want to walk to places (and be surrounded by greenery while doing so).
2. bacon! and taco bell (and whole foods and trader joes). but i've come to love dates, carob, za'atar and lentils (and anything served at turkey central restaurant). i haven't had camel yet. i also look forward to stocked products and consistency in finding what you need when you need it.
3.i look forward to having a logical and heart-felt answer to the seemingly humble statement "i don't know how you do it. i could never do what you do." but i'm at a loss. how would you respond? this statement makes me feel uncomfortable. honestly, i didn't think i could do it either (did you see the books on scorpions i read before moving here and the mosquito net i packed to keep them from falling on my kids at night?). but i did it. and with a baby and a pre-schooler nonetheless. and we travel a lot and we just do it. bit by bit. it's messy and crazy and so incredible at the same time. instead, ask me questions to learn more: about the new foods we've tried or the people we've met from around the world. ask me how safe i feel (well, i get that one a lot anyway). ask me what i've learned about geography (it's so much easier to remember where places are in the world once you've visited them and recall what kid was sick in that location--in rome it was audrey; in iceland everyone but me; in the uae sophia had the seizure). ask me how much i love this country and why. ask me how much i will miss the amazing diversity.
4.it's surreal at times to live life as an expat. we count our blessings. there are so many benefits that make my life very comfortable. i'm grateful. i know i kind of live in a bubble. but we also see real sadness: families split a part just so one parent can send money back home, labor camps, and the disparity between those who have less and those who have so much. in an area of the world where i see some of the most expensive goods--um, common occurrence: maserati cars at school pick up time, with a driver of course--it's so important i guard my own heart against wanting more. getting back to thrift stores and my farming roots this summer helps.
5. we look forward to seeing our families! we look forward to familiarity and the ease in that. we miss out on a lot of family events and the meshing of our lives together with them. at the same time, we are very good about making the most of the time spent with them. we value it. even with all of the sharing, there is still the pause and the unknown that leaves conversations incomplete. can't really explain it all anyway. our children will have something entirely different from my childhood of seeing family on such a regular basis. but they also have something that i never had as a child: what it looks like to sacrifice a lot to make family more important. instead of heading out to that exotic beach resort, we hunker down in wisconsin and we drive to see them. we spend the money to visit them for a wedding. we don't look for a pat on the back. we just hope they will make space in their homes for us and time in their schedules to be with us.
so, embrace us, people we call family and friends! we long to be with you. don't judge me if i suggest we meet up at taco bell...again. please don't quiz me on all the world geography (i'm still not an expert).
less than one month. bring on the roller coaster of emotions and the game of 'how much we can stuff in each suitcase'!