Week 1 in the U.S.

Ok, so our vacation lasted almost 28 days, and I had over 50 days to prepare. I had so many things planned it was crazy. I wrote lists: Who I wanted to see, what I wanted to do, and all of the things I wanted to buy. I kept losing my lists and writing them again. Things never go as planned.

I had to work until the day before we left. Our plan was to sleep at our friends’ house downtown and then it would be easy to get a taxi from there, and it would only be about an hour or less to get to the airport. When I got home, I was hoping the girls would be ready, but Raine, my very easy-going, seven year-old was bawling under the blanket on the bed crying real tears. I asked her what was wrong and she sobbed, “I can’t leave my toys! No one will take care of them and put them to bed at night. They will miss me and be mad at me!” I tried to assure her it would be ok, but she didn’t believe me, so we ended up bringing way more stuffed animals than I had intended.

We only had 2 half-full bags with wheels and our backpacks, but we could barely make it to the curb! There was no way we could make it to the subway, and then definitely no way we could get from the subway station to our friends’ house. We had to retreat. We had no food in our apartment, we just sat on the couch wondering what to do now. My friend called a taxi for us, and it came to our door in less than 10 minutes! So we ended up at her house, just a lot later than we expected. In the morning, we had a breakfast buffet of New Zealand foods, and we ate outside on the balcony because it was so warm and sunny.

Jodie ordered a taxi, and we were on our way. Checking in, getting through, exchanging money, nothing was a problem. The plane was ok, but there was no entertainment –at least for free. You could pay 16.99 for an app to watch movies on your own device, but I have a rule about not paying for apps, and I only have one device for the three of us, so it kind of sucked for 14 hours. We all brought books, and they brought toys too, but we were looking forward to seeing good movies.

We arrived in Chicago a little late, I think, and there were thunder storms. We had a three hour lay-over, but by the time we got through customs and everything, the time I thought we had to eat, was very limited. Little did I know that our plane was delayed for more than two hours. They moved us from gate to gate four times. I think they were trying to lose passengers. One plane coming in got struck by lightning. Every plane was delayed, but the way people got information was by texts, and I didn’t have a phone, so I just had to follow along.

When we finally got on the plane, the pilot joked about trying to make our flight to Cleveland a “same day service.” I didn’t realize that by the time we arrived, it was 2 minutes to midnight! My parents were there near baggage. My mom brought us coats, which was good, because it was freezing! We headed to their home, and ate dinner around 2am.

The next few days were a blur of being awake, almost like dreaming, and sleeping at a moment’s notice. I did talk to Rita, Chris, Julie, my step-daughter, and my ex-in-laws on the phone. That was weird. Mostly, because I am totally not a phone talker. I have a phone (not a smart phone) in China that is just for emergencies and talking to my daughters because our nanny doesn’t speak English. I don’t call people. I buy minutes for my phone and the girls’ phone and it never costs more than $10 each a month, in fact, usually half that. I just don’t talk on phones.

Anyway, I remember eating a lot of good food. My mom made chicken paprikas, pineapple upside-down cake, pierogis, eggplant parmesan, and pretty much anything we had been craving for the past three years.

My mom said I would have sticker shock when we went shopping, and I did! Gas was under $2, a large Starbucks caramel Frappicino was $4.75, and most of the books I bought were under $8! Oh, wait, she thought I would think prices had gone up? I don’t buy gas in China, but when I left the states it was about $4. In Shanghai, my coffee is usually $7, and I can’t touch and English book for under $20. I went a little crazy! Which is why, by the time we left, my two half-full bags turned into 5 filled bags, a carry-on, and 3 backpacks!

By day 2, I had thrown all of my plans out the window and decided to just do whatever. I wanted to participate in about three poetry readings, I wanted us to go to doctors (but I couldn’t get insurance), I wanted to get into my parents’ attic and get books and Christmas ornaments, but we ended up not doing any of those things.

The first week was filled with visitors. First it was my niece and her two babies. She didn’t even know we were in town. Next it was Rita, who spent the whole day, and then it was Chris who spent the whole day. IT was as if no time had passed, in one way, and just catching up like crazy in another. So many things can happen in three and a half years. It’s hard to catch up in even a day.

The week ended on Mother’s Day, and yea! I got to spend it with my mother! Both of my brother’s came over with their families. My older brother seemed to not realize I was back, even though my mom had given him several messages. He didn’t ask me a thing, I don’t think he ever even said “hi.” So yeah, that’s all I have to say about that.

I think I will break this up week by week, and this is pretty much the first week.


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