Thursday, December 3, 2015

Thoughts Underwater

So the reason this journal has been filled with so many angst-ridden posts of late is a little thing called "home leave". I clearly recognize most anyone would qualify me as completely insane for complaining about a mandatory, forced two month vacation. After we complete an overseas assignment, my work forces me to take twenty paid office days to "reacquaint" myself with American culture. 

I used to scoff at such a notion. The world is smaller than ever. With American fast food chains replicating across the globe like bunnies, Amazon Prime able to  fulfill our every whim, and the ability to speak face-to-face with family via Skype, I discounted the need for reassimilation into American society, but the past few weeks--as I have so unelequenty attempted to recount herein--have proven that even in this day and age of modern connectivity, when two cultur s are so very different as India and America, there are unforeseen challenges when moving from one to the other and visa-versa.

We spent the first four weeks in my dad's vacant oceanside condo in Jupiter, Florida, my hometown. We then flew to Cheney, Washington, Elise's hometown. As soon as I got off the plane, I felt a sense of ease that had been alluding me in Florida. In the car on the way back from the airport, I attempted to explain to Elise's father just how hard the last four weeks were. I know I keep rehashing it over and over here, but I do that when I am bothered by something that I cannot wholly explain. I keep going over in my mind what exactly went wrong in those first four weeks in Florida in hopes that by understanding how a so-carefully-constructed plan could go awry, I can avoid making those same mistakes the next time we are forced to take home leave. I explained to Dan that home leave this time around was a confluence of a lot of difficulties. Jet lag. Reverse culture shock. Moving from home. Leaving Chennai. A feeling of limbo, being stuck floating between a point of departure and a destination. The fear of worrying about unwell family and catching up on the lives of those whose lives we had thought had been put in a sort of suspended animation for two years only to find out that two years passed in Florida the same way it did in India. 

After only two days, I can safely say that the second half of home leave is already better than the first. Elise's home is warm and comforting. Everything our vacant condo wasn't. Not having to worry about what's going to be for dinner for the last two nights has alone reduced my personal stress level immensely. I feel lucky to only be responsible for sweet potato fries (even though I ruined them).

This is not to say the first half of home leave was a complete disaster. The unequivocal highlight of our trip to Florida was the side vacation to Orlando. My Aunt Jackie and Uncle Bill were generous enough to share their timeshare points with us so we could all stay together, and my mom picked up five tickets to Disney which we never could have afforded otherwise without taking out loan. The day at the Magic Kingdom was truly magical. The kids favorite ride were the race cars in Tomorrowland; they went three times. All held up all day without naps or breaking down. On two separate occasions, Peter and I peeled off from the main group so he and I could ride roller coasters. First the Seven Dwarfs Mine ride and then Splash Mountain. One of the greatest things about Petey is that he literally cannot control his excitement. When he gets excited about something (like a new Star Wars--Force Awakens trailer or Splash Mountain), you can see the enthusiasm coursing through his body like lightning. It starts in his smiles and in his heart and runs down the length of his four limbs as though he's been electrocuted. It's wonderful to see and it is impossible not to share that same excitement when you do.

After we got off Splash Mountain (only lightly sprinkled), Pete and I tried to catch up with the main group in Adventureland, but were stopped by the Mickey Mouse parade. He was on my shoulders and as the parade went by, I glanced up at him and could see him waving to the characters unprompted; it was a moment right out of a Disney commercial. Mission accomplished.

My mom, Jackie and Bill were even kind enough to watch the kids so Elise and I could go on a much needed date night. It had been only the second such date night since we left India. The first date night we went to our favorite restaurant in Jupiter, Coolinary Cafe. This time we went to one of our old standbys--though a chain restaurant--Bonefish Grill. As far as chain restaurants go, Bonefish is pretty top notch. We sat at the bar (Elise looked at me before we saddled up to the bar. Seeing the empty bar stools, she said to me, "Sometimes, we like to sit at that bat." What she meant was, Always, we like to sit at the bar. We took our time. Drank beer and wine. Had bread with pesto. Stone crab claws were in season, a special and unexpected treat. AND complimentary dessert when we told the bartender we were escaping our three small children.

Elise and I aren't the only ones feeling the affects of the move. Sam, too, left a lot of friends behind. And hasn't played over with anyone is age in weeks. It's wearing him down not to have his favorite outlet. He's been quick to anger and short with his brother and sister. It goes without saying that leaving the comforts of the only home they can remember is not easy either. The last week or so we were in Florida were rainy and incredibly windy. One of the best mornings we had there we drive down to Juno Beach so the kids could ride boogie boards and play in the surf (There are a lot of rocks along the beach on Jupiter Island). On the way back to the condo, we stopped at one of our favorite lunch spots, Dune Dog. But because it had been so windy, we couldn't head down to the beach, and the kids were getting cabin fever, so I took everyone down to the grassy lawn adjacent to the condo to play soccer. Unlike Eliae who was the captain of her high school soccer team, I can't play soccer, but I can run. So Peter and I took on Sam in a pick-up soccer game. Sam jumped out to an early lead, but--with the wind at our backs--Pete and I quickly caught up, then took the lead. We weren't outside long, but that afternoon was one of my favorite during that stretch of our trip.

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