I am leaving, at the end of next week, and will be gone for almost a month. This will be my fourth trip to the States in less than a year. Apparently, there is something very wrong with me, because everyone around me seems to be much more thrilled about my situation than I am. They are both envious of me – for getting to “go to the States,” and excited for me – that I’ll get to be in the “real world” and experience “normalcy” again, even if for a short time. My reaction to this? Well, not once have I said, “Oh, I can’t wait!” or “It’s going to be so much fun!” No. Instead, I am dreading it.
The travel, alone, is daunting! I will leave here, my house, in the evening, and take a cab to the airport – which is, at a minimum an hour away – if not longer – so I will allow myself two and a half hours, by the time I get through customs on both sides and finally cross the causeway [I’m leaving from Bahrain], where after arriving at the airport almost two hours prior – as is required for International flights – my plane will not leave until almost one in the morning. That’s not such a bad thing – I’ll be able to sleep – I can sleep almost anywhere. The first leg of the flight is almost nine hours and upon arrival in this country, I will spend two hours at the airport waiting to catch a flight for the next leg of my trip. The second leg of the flight is a little over seven and a half hours long, and at this point I will probably have to force myself not to become to “antsy” from sitting, I won’t be tired, and I probably won’t be able to sleep. Estimated travel time, so far: twenty-three hours. I will arrive in the States and have to go through customs, where it is more likely than not, that I will be pulled aside and taken to a little room for approximately an hour to be interrogated and given the third degree for being an American citizen who lives in Saudi Arabia.
The questions are always the same – yes, this happens regularly – I don’t recall the last time I made the trip where this didn’t happen. My answers will not have changed since the last time you asked me [February] what I am doing living in Saudi Arabia, why I am traveling alone, how much cash I have on me [U.S. Dollars – none], who my husband works for, etc., etc., etc. The nice – and sometimes not so nice – Customs people will hand me back my passport and tickets and I will be on my merry way – to locate some semi-comfortable spot where I will need to kill another four hours until I finally board the plane for the last leg of this trip, for a two-hour flight where I will be unable to prevent myself from becoming “antsy” and where the very slightest provocation will set me off [if that is your child, sitting behind me, kicking my seat, I will – not quietly – be sharing my thoughts about your unruly, obnoxious, misbehaving offspring if it doesn’t immediately stop]. The trip, so far, will have now consumed some thirty hours of travel and layover time. There will be the inevitable half-hour or so wait at the airport of my destination to collect my luggage, before finding a cab to take me to the hotel where my husband is and has been since the beginning of this month. The total time elapsed, from the time I leave my house, will be just short of thirty-one or thirty-two hours!
Yes, I am happy that I will get to spend time with my family and friends, but to do so will require more travel – we will fly from Georgia to New York – a week after my arrival – next week – only to fly south, again, three weeks later, to North Carolina, before getting on flights to return to The Sandbox. My husband will have lived out of his suitcases for two months; I will have done so for almost a month, spending time in hotel rooms or family and friend’s guestrooms. And, this will be an “easy” trip. [The first time we returned to the States, a little more than a year after arriving in Saudi Arabia, in a little less than two months we traveled first to Texas, then to California, to Washington [state] to New York and to North Carolina, where we joined friends who left with us to go to Italy where we went to Venice, Rome and Milan – we stayed in thirteen different hotel rooms or family and friend’s guestrooms at various destinations which required traveling on eleven different flights – International and domestic – and a couple of trains. Oh, no, we will NEVER, EVER do this again!]
It’s not just the travel, and living out of suitcases, with no space to call your own… There is the fact that if you are at a hotel, if you want to get up in the middle of the night and have a bowl of cereal – oh, wait – you can’t – sure you could order room service – but it’s not the same as walking into your own kitchen and opening the refrigerator to find something to eat that will satisfy whatever craving it is you are having. And, if you are with friends and family, I think it would be considered slightly bad taste to just get up and leave the bedroom in your nightshirt to grab that first cup of coffee – I, personally, don’t ever want to have a “first thing in the morning while I pour coffee” conversation with my husband’s best friend or my brother-in-law in my tee-shirt [just the tee-shirt!], hair not yet brushed and the tell-tale signs of mascara from the day before lining my eyes. So, unlike what might be something you are comfortable doing in your own home, you really can’t do somewhere else.
Forgoing the actual travel and being away from home, I’ve got numerous “things to do” before I can even leave… For starters, I make all the “Kids” food. Yes, this is something for which I have no one but myself to blame – but the food that is available for purchase here in The Sandbox is lacking in quality, to put it mildly. So, I’ve now spent an entire week in the kitchen preparing pre-measured bags of food, filling a chest freezer, for the Kids. I have cooked sixty pounds of hamburger, twenty pounds of chicken, ten pounds of turkey, and six pounds of salmon. I have hard-boiled, peeled and chopped more than twelve dozen eggs, cut into “stuffing” size cubes ten loaves of cereal bread, grated some ten or fifteen pounds of cheddar cheese and four or five pounds of parmesan cheese, cooked and pureed bags of frozen peas and cans of lima beans, shredded several kilos of carrots and sliced twice as many kilos of zucchini. I’ve cooked and chopped enough broccoli, green beans and beets that my hands have taken on a lovely light yellowish green and lavender hue. I have peeled, cooked and mashed sweet potatoes, and cooked rice and barley in commercial sized batches along with a couple containers of oatmeal. Thankfully, this is task is finally – finally – done.
There is the list of instructions to be left – which up until this trip – has been on the computer and I’ve just changed and updated it to make it applicable to whatever flights, dates, hotels, friend’s and family’s homes we can be reached at. We got a new computer [oh, yes, thank you, Dear, for getting us something we really needed – without a diskette drive so that I could simply put what I need from the old computer on a disk and plug it in to this one!] and so I am going to have to do the “instructions” from scratch. There are forms that must be filled out, here, that are not an option, and then delivered to their respective offices: One for housing that says we are gone and who is responsible for maintenance, one that is for security authorizing our “house assistant” to stay here with the “Kids,” and one for the vet authorizing treatment for the “Kids” should it become necessary allowing payment of same to be withheld from my husband’s pay, and finally one for the mail – that we never get – to be held. My list of “things to do” includes numerous other items – some of which are relatively important [i.e., get The Baby’s stitches removed – she was spayed this week], and others which, if not done at all [i.e., get a pedicure] will probably go unnoticed.
So, no, I’m not entirely thrilled to be “going on vacation” at this point… And, no I’m not excited. But for the fact that my father’s health is failing – he had two heart attacks in March, just before we returned to The Sandbox – so I want to spend some time with him – I would tell my husband who has been in the States for work-related purposes, that I just can’t do this trip, again, right now. We were in California in September of last year; we were in Las Vegas for the Holidays and returned to The Sandbox in January; our “long” vacation was scheduled for March – I left The Sandbox to go to North Carolina in February – to get The Boy’s little sister, The Baby, and was gone for almost two months. We have another “short” vacation – already scheduled – for this fall – we are going to Thailand – and I could happily wait until then to go anywhere… I really rather wish, already, that this trip was over and done with and that we were home again, because traveling like this isn’t a vacation. It is work!