Tuesday, August 10, 2010

...And we're back!

I’m happy to report successful completion of our first “repat leave” (the term for expats who return to their home country on extended vacation). We’ve been back in Abu Dhabi a week now, just long enough to get past the jet lag, unpack our suitcases and get back to work. Incidentally, today also marks the start of Ramadan.

In June, we looked to our coming vacation with much excitement and a bit of wariness, as it would be the first time home in nearly a year as well as the first time for both of us to travel for 5 straight weeks. Ours was an ambitious itinerary including 9 flights, at least 13 cities, and visits with about 43 people, which completely defies common expat wisdom which is simply not to do this. Each time I summarized our trip to my colleagues I was warned it would be frenzied and somewhat frustrating (after all, after a year of absence it is impossible to catch up with loved ones in just a few days, much less a few hours, as we had with some folks).

Yet, we forged ahead with our plan, our philosophy being to take it one day at a time and just accept the fact that we might feel a bit like a travelling circus, lugging our stuff from city to city, unpacking and re-packing, and giving the same “show” night after night to different crowds. But you know, we really didn’t feel this way. True, the trip was tiring, but it was so amazing to spend time with each member of our immediate families including all 7 of our nieces and nephews, plus a few cousins, my aunt, Sam’s grandmother, and about a dozen good friends. We’ve mentioned before that making true connections with people while in the UAE has been challenging, so this was a refreshing rain after a drought. We also had the opportunity to enjoy and explore so many parts of America, as varied as they are beautiful, including the mountains of New Mexico, the hill country of Texas, the architecture of Chicago, and the forests of Virginia. And to our great pleasure, we got to eat all of the foods that go along with it (I’ll blog more on this later).

One of the most commonly asked questions this summer was whether it felt strange for us to be back in the US, or in other words, whether we were experiencing reversed culture shock. Without going into all the theories as to why this might be, the simple answer was “no, not really.” It just felt like home.

With Sam's family on 4th of July in Taos Ski Village

White-water rafting down the Rio Grande

At the Rio Grande Gorge

Hiking Whealer Peak, the highest point in New Mexico

Visiting Sam's dad and brother in Texas - unveiling the model airplane that Sam built for his dad's birthday
Family haircuts at Lisa's salon in San Antonio

Hanging out with my nephews, Jason, Christian, and Cullen after chowing on some much-needed Tex-Mex!

Chicago by day

And by night

Shannon and niece, Jolie

Sam with nephew Brodie

Saying goodbye to brother Ryan after a perfect Chicago day

Our first real time alone came just a few days before the end of our vacation when we drove aound eastern Virginia. This picture is taken on an island off Jamestown. I took it because the path ahead of us looked so serene in comparison with the hustle and bustle of our journey so far and seemed symbolic to me, since we were about to leave the US and head back on our somewhat isolated path of living abroad.


  1. Reading this brings back memories of your visit to Chicago...how crazy things seemed when we were trying to plan, but how effortlessly the visit went once y'all were here. And what a surprise! Jolie and Brodie will never forget seeing you and Sam standing in the ice rink lobby...priceless, can't wait to pull that off again! While we miss you, it's good to be reading your blog once again.

  2. I've been waiting expectantly to relive your time with us, which was all too brief, but so very sweet. I'm still savoring the memories of all we did together.