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Published: December 17th 2008
The kids and I went to bed at midnight and after a good solid 5 hours of sleep we were all pretty much up and about. The kids went to bed in their rooms and we all ooohed and ahhhed over the softness of our beds. Really, it was amazing. We have firm mattresses but they felt like heaven. So soft in comparison to the Chinese beds. By the morning, however, there were 4 of us in our not so large queen bed. Sleepy time was quickly over and discussions turned to the first meal. I have to go get a blood test at 10am. Which means I am fasting until then. Which means no first meal for me until later. I thought I was so clever booking these needed appointments from China (and I was clever, it's true) but now I have to wait 4 more hours to eat. I don't plan to go watch the first meal. I will have to send out a junior reporter for that story.
It's funny how we've come to expect drama and adventure even when traveling home by plane. Upon arriving to the airport, after a very slow drive filled with much
traffic and with at times 4 Slavens snoring in the van, we found out our plane was delayed. It's okay, not a big deal, we agreed and so the journey to return home began. It's not like we were taking a sailing ship and had to worry about scurvy. We waited in the business lounge and snacked on odd Chinese sweets and some tea sandwiches, drank a little wine, watched a movie, read a book. Not so bad.
We could see other expat families whose children had the same Chinese textbook next to their chairs--ambitious I thought considering it was hour 1 of their holiday break. I put our Chinese textbooks in the checked bags. Seriously, who studies on day 1? Anyway, we waited for our plane in great comfort and then it was time to go.
The flight was not full, but there were plenty of others making the same journey to the US. Our flight was also connecting to La Guardia, so that probably helped fill it up. Many expats have been sent home and many other foreigners are not traveling home this holiday--from the stories we've heard--due to the horrific global economy. We are lucky
to be able to make the trip all things considered.
Mark did a great job getting us a good seat setup. Last trip we were 4 across and it was miserable. We noticed that there were a lot of people with entire rows. We wanted entire rows. So we had 2 rows, one of 4 seats and 1 of 3, with 2 of us in each row. Made it possible for the kids to snooze. We were Economy Plus--thanks to my new Premier status, thanks to Mark's status which allowed him to invite me to be Premier, and it was totally survivable. There was a screamer directly behind Mark, who had the 4 across row. Emily and I had no issues in our row other than the powerfully bad gas someone nearby shared with us during the start of the flight. Emily asked me rather loudly what that terrible smell was and I said rather loudly in reply "Oh that's because someone needs to use the bathroom, honey". The bombing stopped shortly thereafter. 14 hours of that and we'd have a different story to tell.
Mark also scored big by ordering the kids special meals. I didn't realize
you can still do that, but I guess you can on international flights. He ordered me fruit plates--which was thoughtful but not the best choice when you get 2 meals and a snack and they are all fruit plates. I was able to eat the non-fruit meal food for my first meal so it was fine. I was not feeling too well much of the flight. Probably nervous stomach (or too much fruit). Luckily the same generic over the counter stomach medicine I had packed to go TO China remained unopened in my bag and was a lifesaver on the long flight.
We landed at O'Hare and discovered it was snowing pretty heavily. It was beautiful to see all that white, clean snow but we were quickly aware that it was not going to be an easy last leg of our long trip home. We waited a long time for our bags to arrive and then started the quest for transportation. No taxis were answering their phones. The airport was jammed full of people either trying to get out or stuck due to flight delays or cancellations. We have been in this situation before, but we were tired, hungry
and just not really into the whole dramatic return to the States aspect of our situation. Regardless, we did manage (after over 2 hours of line waiting) to get 2 taxis to take us home. We had too much stuff to take a single car and there were no vans to be found. Mark and Nathan took 1 taxi and Emily and I took the other.
Now this part is good. I noticed our driver was Asian but it was really dark and we didn't talk much at first. Then I told him (which should come as no surprise) that we were arriving home from China after 5 months of living there. The driver asked me if I spoke Mandarin and I answered "a little" in Chinese. So you guessed it--he was Chinese. Spoke Mandarin and we had all sorts of fun on the very long ride home from the airport. The ride took over an hour, but I could not believe our luck having a Chinese speaking driver. It was all so familiar. He was such a nice man and Emily wowed him with her Chinese and I did not wow him with mine. He told me, in
that somewhat painfully honest way that I have found typical of the Chinese culture, "Her Chinese is much better than yours." I said "I know." He said "You should be proud!" I said "I am." (Sighing heavily). So we are home after 5 months in China and I am giving the driver directions to our house in my polished Chinglish. Very cool. I gave him a big tip. He said it took him 4 hours to get to the airport from the city. I'm so glad he made the trip.
Driving into to our neighborhood was like a scene from a movie. All the snow, the holiday decorations and lights in the trees. Such a happy and familiar sight. The house is a little musty smelling. Did it always have that smell? We don't know. We got a fire going and lit some candles while we tore into the neatly organized mail (thanks Angie!) and the fabulous cookies and food and drinks Natalie left for us the day before. Thank goodness for our friends. Our house seems absurdly large, but very familiar. We did sneak over to see Natalie and the girls across the street and we all giggled
and squealed at our delight at being reunited.
That's the homecoming story. More to follow, I'm sure. Thanks to Sue and Dan for keeping the car alive--the kids and Mark just took off for breakfast at Walker Brothers.
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